Le Docteur Miracle at Drink, Shop & Do
Opera is big business: it usually requires lavish sets and costumes, highly trained singers, huge casts and as a consequence ticket prices are steep and audiences are made up of repeat attendees. It has the reputation of being the preserve of the snobbish and pretentious. Pop-up Opera are trying to change this, proving that it is possible to stage an operetta (a short opera) in a bar by King’s Cross station.
Bizet’s Le Docteur Miracle is a silly story of Laurette, the daughter of a politician, who falls in love with the soldier Silvio. Her father forbids the marriage, so Silvio uses elaborate means to get to Laurette – including posing as a chef and singing a long song about an omelette.
Even though the music is sung in French, Pop-up have made the operetta as widely appealing as possible by explaining the action and providing very loose translations on ridiculous slides projected onto the wall. These bring humour and topicality to the production, much like in a pantomime; very few operas mention sexting or feature Gregg Wallace from Masterchef.
Thrown into the operetta are a few of Bizet’s most famous pieces, such as the Toreador song from Carmen. The cast members do not confine themselves to the stage but instead move around and interact with audience members. The audience is also encouraged to clap and sing along as they please, and some are even given percussion instruments to make plenty of noise during big numbers.
The singing is excellent from all four cast members, and they work so tightly and precisely when they have to sing duets, trios and even quartets. It is a powerful experience to hear the fantastic operatic voices so close up, particularly when Robert Lomax as Silvio sustains a very long and very high note just inches away. The four singers show off how strong and controlled their voices are. Their singing is accompanied impressively by only one musician – pianist Elizabeth Challenger.
The costumes are simple enough, staging kept to a minimum and adapted to each new location, so that the result is a focus on spreading opera as widely as possible and making it enjoyable for as many people as possible. Le Docteur Miracle is a great endeavour by Pop-up Opera, and very well executed.
Le Docteur Miracle is on tour until 3rd May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre company’s website here.