Croydonites Festival 2018 review: Pop-Up Opera at St Andrew’s church

By - Thursday 24th May, 2018

Mozart and popular culture unite with flair in St Andrew’s church

Photo by Pop-Up Opera, used with permission.

‘Singspiel’ is a beautiful German word which translates simply as ‘a light opera with spoken dialogue’. This Mozart operatic double bill was just as charming as the word promises.

It consisted of Der Schauspieldirektor (which translates as ‘the impresario’) and Bastien und Bastienne. Modernising eighteenth-century opera is not an easy undertaking, as there may be a temptation to dilute to suit a contemporary audience. The Pop-Up Opera company achieved it very well by staying true to the original music and libretto (text), yet adopting modern techniques such as the use of captions on a digital-screen backdrop to provide clever and pithy translations with a delightfully comedic effect. A lengthy libretto was sometimes condensed to a witty one-liner or a quotation from current pop culture by the inspired pen of Harry Percival.

This use of humour engaged with an audience of varying age and experience, while also allowing those of us not fluent in German to follow the (albeit uncomplicated) plot unhindered by lengthy translations.

Two talented-and-don’t-they-know-it divas were played superbly

Both acts were performed in the beautiful St Andrew’s church in Southbridge Road, which is a wonderfully intimate yet bright space, with high ceilings and stone pillars providing fantastic acoustics to resonate with these powerful operatic voices, accompanied exquisitely by pianist Conal Bembridge-Sayers. The sets were suitably minimal to allow for the all-important performers to light up the stage with their voices, yet with cleverly chosen props to enhance character interactions and often provide much of the comical element. Both pieces had the feel of an act within a Shakespearean comedy, set to the exquisite music of Mozart.

Der Schauspieldirektor is to all intents and purposes an impressive vocal battle between two extremely talented-and-don’t-they-know-it divas, played superbly by Sarah Helena Foubert and Hazel McBain, while Bastien und Bastienne is a classic story of a lovers’ spat complicated by the devious intervention of a third party, brilliantly performed by Alys Mererid Roberts, Nick Allen and Piran Legg.

Pop-Up Opera is no-frills theatre, which not only enables existing opera fans to access high-quality, affordable opera on their doorstep, but is also bringing the experience of opera to new audiences – all of this without compromising on talent and performance.

Ivonne Fernandes-Bonnar

Ivonne Fernandes-Bonnar

Ivonne is a freelance artist, with a background in theatre design, who currently runs art sessions for adults with learning difficulties at day centres in the local area. She is a mother of three and has lived in Croydon for over forty years since travelling over from Nairobi with her family as a young child.

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