TriOperas at the Peacock Theatre
Concept designer and director of TriOperas Pamela Tan-Nicholson attempts to cram three famous operas into 30-minute pieces. Usually, that might have been a cause for celebration among novices to the art form, but sadly this isn’t the case.
Turandot, originally by Giacomo Puccini and Franco Alfano, involves a Chinese warrior-princess who disguises herself as a man in battle, unhappy with the way women have been treated in the past. As with the two other performances, there are too many characters on stage, and the Peacock Theatre proves unsuitable for elaborate battle scenes. Added to this is the fact that the fighters are strung up with ropes, which mimics combat scenes in the Matrix film franchise, rendering it tacky. The lighting seems off too; the characters’ costumes are garish and look like part of a school play. This is one of the main issues with Tan-Nicholson’s production: you can’t quite shake off the amateur quality; it’s as if you are still watching the dress rehearsals.
Madam Butterfly is only marginally better than its predecessor tonight. The sad story of the geisha falling in love with a handsome American naval officer can stir the heart, especially at the end when he returns with his American wife, offering to bring up his and Butterfly’s child. Opening with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, celebrating 4th July, the American crew are enjoying their time with the shy and excitable Japanese geishas. As the former frolic, the latter tap dance in geta, traditional sandals, which is quite a sight to behold. Amidst the revelry, there’s also a surprising aerial scene above the audience, signifying the lovemaking between Pinkerton and Butterfly. Though their operatic vocals are excellent, this is not enough to redeem the piece as the narrative and focus are lost, and just like Turandot, the performance ends in a suicide.
And finally, there is Carmen. Set in Spain, the classic story revolves around the titular sultry gipsy and her ploy to seduce the city officer, Don José. Things quickly turn awry as Carmen is seen dancing provocatively with a woman’s husband, who turns to attack her, Carmen then retaliating by stabbing the lady. What then ensues is an excessively messy chase scene with too many performers, as the police and Carmen run to the back, jumping on hidden trampolines in the long pursuit.
The insistent and self-pitying Jose is portrayed well by Naoto Kaiho, as is Lucy Kay’s Carmen, but once again, what lets this down is the incredible amount of styles and themes that are collapsed into half-hour slots. This rendition of Bizet’s opera does possess a surprisingly good scene: Cham Gong Ming and Toh Chin Xian’s bull, choreographed by Ho Phiew Siao, in the style of Chinese lion wushu. It is remarkable to watch the actors jump on small tabletops with excellent coordination, but this adaptation nevertheless fails to capture with its tragedy.
TriOpera’s marketing is misleading to say the least; it is not a show of unrivalled, adrenaline-fuelled pieces, but is in actuality quite dull. This is unfortunate as a lot of time and effort have been invested into the performances, but the way in which they’ve been executed is very amateur. The addition of intervals almost as long as the works themselves is also off-putting and makes the staging unnecessarily long-winded. Hopefully, newcomers to opera aren’t discouraged from seeking out better shows, ones in which the drama and production are as good as the singing.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
TriOperas is at the Peacock Theatre from 23rd May until 1st July 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.