Jo Davies’ production for Opera North of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic caused quite a splash when it appeared in Manchester and Leeds, and now looks set to do the same in London.
Arguably the duo’s richest and finest creation, it is the story of two New Englanders who, even once married, find it impossible to express their true feelings for each other. Although it is strictly a musical, the winning combination of heart-warming and heart-wrenching songs makes it an obvious choice for a major opera company, and here the cast brings an exceptional quality of sound to the piece, with none of the singers relying on body mics.
The direction is no less intelligent with scenes existing not as discrete set pieces, but rather as fluid organisms that highlight the wealth of characters whom inhabit this small fishing community. The dance pieces are tightly, yet never preciously, choreographed so that they capture all of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. CGI is used effectively, but also sparingly, with heavy horses and illuminated poles swirling in and out of place to form the magical carousel.
Although Michael Todd Simpson and Katherine Manley excel as the central couple, Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan, it is two of the highest profile operatic names who steal the show. Sarah Tynan as Julie’s best friend Carrie has a pleasing voice and comic touch, while Yvonne Howard carries a strong homely presence as cousin Nettie. Joseph Shovelton also provides a convincing yet entertaining portrayal of pomposity as Mr Snow, and John Woodvine brings an earthy spirituality to the role of the Starkeeper.
When winning performances and strong direction are applied to a potent piece with so many show-stopping songs, the result is something very special indeed. Head to the Barbican now to discover just how special.
Until 15 September with start times of 14.30 and 19.30. Casts vary over the run. For further details and tickets click here. Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from the Target Live press team.
Photo: Slickly choreographed horses, poles and people make up the carousel.