PopUp Opera’s mission – to provide a night at the opera without the glass of fizz or decadence – is one of its defining features, making it a truly unique opera company, not forgetting the quality of its outstanding performers.
Having had the pleasure of seeing the touring company stage Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi in the cold Thames Tunnel Shaft, I’ve seen how good performances can be made in unexpected spaces, which provide more atmosphere in line with the story. In director, James Hurley’s case, a basement environment was ideal, and representative of the Montagues’ and Capulets’ brutal feud and mafia-like torture scene in Act 1.
Those new to opera will be familiar with Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, though Bellini, as well as Shakespeare, was influenced by an original Renaissance story, and Bellini’s librettist, Felice Romani had other bold ideas that see our star-crossed lovers in another way. For one thing, the opera has fewer characters and skips ahead, beginning with both teenagers already in love.
In the first scene, the music is intense and emotions are high – the drama has already begun! Romeo, pretending to be a Montague messenger, has been captured by the Capulets. He is tortured and interrogated by Capellio and Tabaldo, yet it is in this scene we hear some of the best arias of the opera.
Oliver Brignall is a marvellous performer. His sharp and crisp looking Tebaldo is complemented by his vocal finesse bestowed on the audience when singing, È serbata a questo
Lorenzo, doctor and retainer for the Capulets, is a difficult part to perform as he also sympathises with Romeo. Bass singer, Julian Debreuil, shows us Lorenzo stuck in a tough corner, trying to help the lovers come together, yet seeming loyal to the Capulet too, yet Palmer rises to the challenge and sings with unrestrained passion throughout.
PopUp Opera founder, Clementine Lovell, sings as Giulietta, losing hope of a happier ending with Romeo. With the staging set in a cold basement, her scenes seemed as if she was a princess locked in a chamber, and only Romeo could rescue her. Lovell encapsulates the fragility and vulnerability of Giulietta effortlessly through her gracefulness on stage and elegant voice. On the evening I saw her, she was on the edge of making audiences’ feel Giulietta’s hurt and anxiety.
Bellini wrote the character of Romeo for a trouser role, which sees the opera in a more sensitive light. Mezzo soprano, Katie Groset is sharp on the mark and all eyes are on her for giving a brilliant performance as a tough Romeo, determined to give Giulietta the happiness she seeks. Just as she sings in Sì, fuggire: a noi non resta, she performs with pathos throughout and it hurts to see Romeo die in the lap of Giulietta.
Last and, most certainly, not least, international music director, Berrak Dyer is a tour de force. She performs Bellini’s score masterfully on the piano and is a wonder to watch! I Capuleti e i Montecchi is intense, moving, and impressively staged. Wear some warm clothes and check out this production, or at least catch them on tour – I know I will!
Review by Mary Nguyen
Pop-Up Opera are back for 2016. Now well-established on the touring opera circuit, the company skilfully adapt their operas to each individual venue, making every performance unique, while always maintaining the highest standards. This season, they are staging I Capuleti e i Montecchi – their first ever tragedy (sung in Italian with English captions).
Director James Hurley commented, “I Capuleti e i Montecchi represents an exciting new direction for Pop-Up Opera and I am thrilled to be directing the company’s first ‘tragic’ opera. This production will bring Pop-Up’s audiences closer to the action than ever before, conjuring an atmospheric and intimate environment that will place spectators at the heart of Bellini’s moving love story.”