Summer Opera Double Bill
Dream Factory, Warwick
AS they say in Paris, you can wait forever for the bateau mouche to arrive and then suddenly two will come at once.
This delightfully quirky double bill of short French operas represented something of a change from Leamington Music and, if the quality of the show and the size of the audience is any kind of measure, it’s one they may have to consider adopting again.
The young students of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire provided the content and Warwick’s Dream Factory provided a suitably stagy setting it would not have been possible to achieve at the Pump Rooms.
Charpentier’s paean to the majesty of the French king in uniting the arts formed the first half. It is a bizarre piece in many ways more redolent of Mao era propaganda or even something from latter day North Korea – everything under the sun (indeed the sun itself) owing its existence to the leader.
Characters representing the arts from music to painting and poetry take turn to bemoan their inability to praise Louis enough and even a malign attempt to introduce discord is thwarted by the king’s excellence in uniting the arts, the nation and the cosmos.
Interestingly staged to compensate for this being an offering with little action, the solo performances, though promising, were subordinate to the chorus singing making the most of Charpentier’s rich and inventive polyphony.
A far greater chance to shine as individuals came in the second piece and the move to Offenbach’s cheerfully bonkers vision of love among the fruit and veg sellers of Les Halles.
For this unflinchingly light piece the company delved deep into the funny costume pile and the odd props box to present a colourful world not dissimilar to pantomime.
Credit must go to the three market hall women – each one a fully-formed pantomime dame – whose rivalries and machinations drive this simple story along.
As with the Charpentier the quality of solo contributions was varied but spirited, experience and confidence will add so much to the impressive promise already on show. Two voices particularly shone though, the young lovers – both sung by women – were strong both in themselves and as a beautifully balanced pairing.
Excellently underpinned by Conservatoire musicians under the guidance of Fraser Goulding, this was a real unexpected summer treat. We can never take the brilliance of summer for granted but let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next one to come along.