Friday, 13 October 2017

REVIEW: Pop-Up Opera's Hansel and Gretel at the V&A Museum of Childhood

‘Do as your Mother tells you or you will be eaten by someone who looks strangely like her’ was the moral of the story at Pop-up opera’s interpretation of Humperdink’s 1894 Hansel and Gretel. Their mission is to stage opera in places where it wouldn’t usually be staged and make it more accessible for any audience member. Whilst this is a noble cause I feel as if they relied on the wrong devices to make it ‘accessible’. 

As I walked into the V&A Museum of Childhood’s gift shop I was greeted with a piano, two projectors and a fridge. The slight modern twist on this contemporary classic is nice to see but is updating a minimalist set what is needed to make it relatable to modern audiences? Apparently it’s not all that’s needed. The projector screens are narrating what is being sung; however I feel slightly cheated by this.

Now, my German isn’t what it used to be so when translations accompany Opera I can relax a little however the translation given by Pop-up opera is filled with slang and pop culture references that actually garner a cheap laugh more than anything. The singers on stage are doing a wonderful job reciting all the German they have learnt and we are given modern summaries of what they were saying; a general gist if you like. 

Hansel and Gretel, played by Polly Leech and Sofia Larsson are lovely to listen to. Leech’s Mezzo is grounding and expressive in contrast to Larsson’s floating and warm soprano. They blend very nicely and fill the room with grace and elegance. Supported by James Harrison and Ailsa Mainwaring as Father and Mother/Witch respectively. Both are wonderful and characterful singers; joyful
and pleasant to listen to. 

The best part of this production is Humperdinck’s Score. Played beautifully by Musical Director Berrak Dyer and sang wonderfully by the company. 

This is one to see if you enjoy listening to Opera and seeing productions not in a traditional setting but it’s not a must see unfortunately. 

Details of the tour can be found on Pop-up Opera’s website:

Review by James-Lee Campbell

Rating: ★★
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