Gloria – A Pigtale at the Royal Opera House
What happens when you mix a couple of pigs, cabaret and opera? The answer is H K Gruber’s delightfully absurd and darkly comic cabaret opera, which director Frederic Wake-Walker sets in a burlesque butcher’s shop.
Gloria – A Pigtale is as poles apart from a traditional German or Italian opera as Roald Dahl is to Dickens. Hollywood hotdogs, yodelling frogs, cows singing at a “mootel”, blow-up pigs and a fascist meeting in a pigsty comprise this unique, modern twist on a classical genre. As zany as it sounds, Gruber’s aim is clear, he is categorically making a sideswipe at right wing politics – for him there is very little meaning to conservative life and in the end“we are all just meat wrapped up in a skin.”
Gloria (Gillian Keith), a soprano-singing sow, is looking for love when she falls in love with a butcher, mistaking his attentions for love when all he really wants to do pack her into batches of bacon. Rodrigo, an unassuming wild boar and singing bass (Sion Goronwy), comes to her rescue, finally baring his true feelings to Gloria who is ecstatic to have finally met her prince. Married, with two little piglets, Rodrigo realises that the convention in inconsistent with his lifestyle and his innate constitution.
Musically aided by a superb big band, this “cabaret opera” mixes a variety of musical styles, from jazz and blues to Bavarian oompah, Mahler and Wagner. Some of the music reflects the dark social themes Gruber sets out to address, edging sometimes on the slightly psychopathic; as Wake-Walker says: “When someone’s smiling at you saying ‘yeah mate, that’s great’ but they’re actually about to punch you in the face…”
Strangely enjoyable and raising consistent laughs, the whole aesthetic of Gloria has a cabaret feel about it without scrimping on the operatic qualities. The overall outcome is a blend of the two genres, making it more accessible than the original convention would usually hold. Is it a great opera? Was Picasso a great artist? That answer would depend on what you consider great art.
Gloria – A Pigtale is at the Royal Opera House until 19th July 2014 before touring. For further information or to book visit the company’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Gloria – A Pigtale here: