REVIEW: Opera North Spring Season, Theatre Royal Newcastle, until tonight

ON SONG: The Marriage of Figaro.
ON SONG: The Marriage of Figaro.

A NORTHERN Opera double bill of La Vida Breve by Manuel De Fall and Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) are two one-hour pieces that both hit the target and offer a different look at life.

La Vida Breve (The Short Life) certainly lives up to its name because it packs everything in: bullying, murder, rape, suicide, violence, a wedding, drug taking and a surreal edge that makes you wonder what it’s about but, all the time, reeling you in and enthralling throughout.

A rare Spanish opera, it is set in a bridal gown-making sweatshop where a transvestite “worker” (Daniel Norman) is mocked, attacked, spat on and kicked. Her only friend is Salud (Anne Sophie Duprels).

Given its surreal character, the story looks as though it’s told through the dreams of the transvestite or it could have been through the eyes of Salud whose lover Paco (Jesus Alverez) is a wrong ‘un, causing Salud to self harm to the point of suicide. It’s a bloody but mesmerising affair!

In stark contrast, Gianni Schicchi is a light, comedic piece that entwines Dante’s Inferno with a modern story in which Dante’s mute character becomes the wealthy Bousco (Tim Claydon) who is on his way out and his “loving” family farcically flutter round him like vultures in the hope of gaining from his will.

What makes this interesting is Buoso hovering around (as a wall climber, a clown and an acrobat shinning up a rope) like a ghost watching his family and friends (especially Gianni Schicchi played by Christopher Purves) as they re-draw his will and eventually fall out over their greed.

The central point is the love between Lauretta (Tereza Gevorgyan) and Rincuccio (Jesus Alvarez). Gevorgyan’s rendition of “O mio babbino Caro” brought the house down.

The Opera North Season continues tonight with The Marriage of Figaro.

Ed Waugh