Set in an old factory on a small side street in Shoreditch, Opera di Peroni promises East London cool rather than opera’s more conservative, stuffy fare. The edge-factor continues with beautiful bar staff offering Peroni beers at the door and Warp Records-signed musician Kwes mixing beats in the background. Yep, we are not in Covent Garden anymore.
Directed by James Hurley, another young, reputable ingénue, and produced by renegades Go Opera, out to change opera as we know it, this rendition is purposefully adapted from Giacomo Puccini's 'La Rondine' featuring its original elements of romance, betrayal and despair. The story varies, however, by adding a focus around fame and ‘celebrity-dom’, specifically pertaining to lead character Magda, a high profile singer/model/actress.
The show starts with Magda's return to the spotlight from a two-year hiatus, rumoured to have resulted from a tumultuous relationship with millionaire Rambaldo. Friends and ex-bandmates from rock sensation Senza-Paura share their concerns for Magda on her first night back. But what no one expects is the journalist that catches her eye, and the obsessive love affair that begins.
The warehouse takes on the role of Magda’s apartment and stage where the audience is invited to follow the performances to and from each of the uniquely designed spaces. A full band including violins, a piano, an accordion (and of course Kwes too) are featured, adding high energy to the mix.
For the opera community and theatre-goers alike, the experiential setting is a breath of fresh air. Cast members mingle among the crowd, allowing the audience to feel as if they're at the opening night. The only down-side to this type of arrangement is the lack of visibility for those not standing near the right room at the right time. While you can walk to each of the spaces, only a certain portion of the crowd can actually see what is happening (Peroni’s top-of-the-line projectors screening sub-titles and the twitter hashtag would have been better utilised projecting the performance as well). It should also be mentioned that despite Peroni being one of Europe’s hottest brands at the moment, its recognisable green bottles that are swigged, cheersed and raised throughout the scenes are a tad much. Hoxtonites get that Peroni is a fine brewskie.
All in all, selling opera as a fun experience is something that should be applauded. Kwes and crew have already made a success out of last year’s opera re-visage.... countdown to the next one.
Opera di Peroni concluded its London performances this past weekend. If you missed out, two performances will take place in Bristol at Paintworks on 27 and 28 March starting at 9pm. Tickets are £10. Alternatively, keep an eye out for upcoming events via the web-sites: http://operadiperoni.com and https://www.facebook.com/peroniuk