TOSCA AND LA BOHEME

12 Feb

Adam Spreadbury Maher, David Eaton and the Kings Head company are famous for innovation, and this is an astonishing transformation of La Boheme. The writers have given us two famous operas with adapted music and lyrics rewritten in English for a 2020 audience.
First of all, we have beautiful soprano Honey Rounhani as a twentieth-century Tosca set in New York in 1949. The Sinister Gangster leader Scarpia tries to blackmail Tosca into sleeping with him by threatening her lover, Cavaradossi, with a watery death. The moustachioed smoothy, Michael Georgiou, gives us a feeling of terror from his very first entrance.
Yes, it is roughly the same story. It is good to hear those soaring voices – and to see an audience that is so happy to be part of the show. It has a trendy music hall feel about it – and the audience in this one are well involved. I was half expecting for them to join in the familiar chorus. The powerful soaring voices and the amount of comedy in the script help to give the audience a happy experience. Roberto Barbaro as Cavaradossi has a cheeky personality which makes his imminent demise even more tragic.

The big surprise comes in La Boheme. Set in Peckham, the apartment of Rod and Marcus a couple of bohemian artists. They live the life of the twenty-first century complete with mobile phones and Uber.
When Marcus (Hugo Herman-Wilson) goes to the pub, Rod waits alone for a visitor from Grindr. The knock at the door is not from a poor freezing girl but a charming young man. His real name is Lucas, but, of course, he sings ‘They call me Mimi’ or words to that effect. I am sure that many tenors have longed to do that particular aria and Philip Lee sings it exquisitely. Rod, (Roger Peterson), is excited by him, and they are instantly in love. It is such a good idea to show a real romance between two young men without making it camp or laden with off-colour gags.
They go off to the pub where Fiona Finsbury as Melissa is tormenting Marco -her ex-husband.
She provides not only the comedy but a female voice, which I find I miss a little during the longish scenes between the men.
The Trafalgar Studio is the ideal small theatre for the kind of intimate opera devised by this company. This up to date version of the story is highly successful, and I expect it will attract a multitude of customers to the West End. I have seen many of the English Libretto productions at the Kings Head, and they work brilliantly, bringing some of the most beautiful music ever written, back into our rap ridden lives.

Please note. These are the names of the singers playing on the first night of the run. They will change their roles as the season progresses.

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