Pop Up Opera

I take my seat upstairs in the busy and bustling Sun Tavern in Covent Garden. The quaintly dressed set is a cross between a children’s dressing up box and an avid fancy dress partygoer’s wardrobe. My eyes are drawn to all the brightly coloured pieces of material that are draped across this snug little function room. The clown, played by Darren Royston, is playfully chatting to audience members. The atmosphere is very warm and endearing.

The performance is an integrated version of Donizetti’s Rita (1841) and Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona (1733), two one-act operas blended together. Although the opera is performed in Italian, I am able to follow the storyline very easily, mainly due to the scene breakdown in the programme. However, the screen provides us with very useful translations, helping us to understand fully the ridiculous and hilarious realities of the characters. The plot is very comical in its own right, but Pop Up Opera’s imaginative modern references surprise and delight the audience even further when they appear on the screen.

The intimate and cosy vibe is very appealing as I am serenaded by the superb vocal abilities of the cast. The company have achieved a great deal in such a small space: there is dancing, comedia dell’arte style movement and moments when all the cast inhabit the space at once. Props are used in a very effective way by the cast and particular credit is due to the use of the skipping rope in more than one scene. These choices also elevate the humour within the absurd story, an example of this is when Serpina (Melanie Lodge) feeds Uberto (Oskar MaCarthy), a carrot from a fishing rod. She then proceeds to force feed him grapes and chocolate mousse much to our delight; we are immersed in the action throughout. This suits the piece extremely well, as the actors share their woes and their wants with us at all times, and usually in very close proximity!

Deceit, trickery, marriage, love and lust are superbly explored by all members of the cast. They commit to the text, music and each other to their fullest. I admire this as, again, the playing space is small, and with no change in light, the actors have no choice but to sing in our faces. In particular, Cliff Zammit Stevens who plays Beppe, and Melanie Lodge seem completely at one with their instruments. I relax and let their voices infiltrate the room. I feel nourished, in more than simply a cultural sense.

Pop Up Opera’s aim of delivering fun, fresh and imaginative opera in unusual spaces to the masses has been realised tonight on more than one level. As a relatively inexperienced opera goer, I feel very privileged and grateful to be a part of such an innovative piece of theatre. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to have some fun and experience some of the finest vocal talent around!