Muso at Bloomsbury Theatre
Academia meets opera in this dynamic, humorous and slightly offbeat performance of Muso, which forms part of the Performance Lab series at University College London. As with previous renditions of this show, which started at the British Museum in 2018, musical production company Impropera brings to song the stories of curators and researchers from various museums, using examples of onsite artefacts and the investigative nature of their academic studies.
A smartly dressed group of six musicians takes to the stage and artistic director and tenor David Pearl asks for audience participation for the night to begin. His affable charm in this role as compere means questions get thrown out and answers returned, and quickly the deft performers cleverly translate them, giving an amusing, operatic spin.
After this initial introduction, Pearl invites pre-selected academic participants from UCL to join Impropera in discussion upon the stage and this brings an intellectual shift from a slightly frivolous beginning. One by one these scholars regale spectators with their stories, outlining scientific racism, the pseudoscience of phrenology, Scandinavian filmmaking and the wondrous relationship between science and art.
The operatic choir interject between each academic and makes an improvised, and often extremely comical, performance from each participant’s tale. Susan Bisatt, the soprano, seems seasoned in her art. She easily leads some of the stories, ad-libbing impressively in Latin and working well alongside her female mezzo soprano, the graceful Louise Crane. Movements are fluid, makeshift scenarios are played out, but it’s the humour and quick-thinking rhyming from baritone Niall Ashdown that really brings this unique format to life.
A woodwind instrumentalist and pianist make up the rest of the company of performers. Classical works from composers such as Handel, Rossini and Stravinsky seep out into the auditorium, and although there are occasional and perhaps expected moments where the improvising seems to falter, it’s swiftly picked up by one of the other cast members, who brings the show back to life.
Intelligent and experimental and with endless different scenarios, Muso is a dynamic delivery of educational subject matter through the talented and quirky use of opera.
Muso was at Bloomsbury Theatre on 7th May 2019 as part of the Performance Lab season. For further information and events visit the theatre’s website here.