Tag Archives: Anna Bonomelli

La Tragédie de Carmen – 3.5 Stars


La Tragédie de Carmen

 Asylum Chapel, Peckham

Reviewed – 25th September 2018


“In spite of all that was missing, the work remains a sequence of irresistible tunes, heroically produced”


In taking modest versions of great operas to pubs, barns and disused factories, companies such as Pop-Up Opera provide a surprising percentage of the country’s operatic performances each year. Their stated mission is to find new audiences for opera, which opera could well do with, judging by some critics’ sniffy reviews of the format. But although this shoestring version of Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, itself already a shoestring version of the real thing, deserves support and encouragement, it is easy to see their dilemma.

Brook’s original adaptation uses a small orchestra. Pop-Up Opera’s solo piano is an obvious budget choice but there is no way it can make up for the richly expressive textures of the music. One instrument, for example a flute, would add colour and spirit to the evening, especially during the vocal breaks when the piano fails to take the emotional reins. Musical director, Berrak Dyer does an excellent job of the transcription, but castanets and distant bugles can’t easily be produced by the same instrument.

Chloe Latchmore’s warm mezzo tones fill the Asylum as she seduces Don José. We miss a gypsy vitality in both her on-stage movement and in her dynamic range, which, in some places, could come down in volume to allow for dramatic growth. We enjoy a more nuanced rendering by Satriya Krisna as José and James Corrigan’s Escamillo has a dramatic presence despite his baritone voice being overshadowed by the piano and other members of the cast. Soprano, Alice Privett, shines as Micaëla, singing with sensibility and passion.

The portable element of the set is clearly a ‘must’ for the company, who are constantly changing venues, but it demands great resourcefulness of Director John Wilkie. The choice of a draughty but aesthetically pleasing church in Peckham is perfect in principle, but aside from acoustically it’s not really used. The soaring and plummeting emotions are coaxed out on a tiny stage, in front of a small projector screen which is shared by Harry Percival’s English captions, looped scenes from the Spanish civil war and creative use of shadow puppetry. Lighting is desultory; small spotlights on stands fiercely illuminate the performers’ faces from a low angle limiting their expressiveness, which, in a production already bereft of chorus, orchestra and scenery, seems harsh on all present.

In spite of all that was missing, the work remains a sequence of irresistible tunes, heroically produced.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Ugo Soffientini


La Tragédie de Carmen

Touring until 23rd November



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Review of Don Giovanni – 5 Stars


Don Giovanni

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd November 2017



“a full-blooded, vital performance”


Mozart’s Don Giovanni is an appropriate choice for Headfirst Production’s Festival of Sex, Love and Death, given that it includes all three, in spades. The opera is a heady rush of action: the three hours sprint by as the audience takes in weddings, seductions, betrayals, heartbroken laments and gorgeous singing.

This production at Islington’s Pleasance Theatre is a full-blooded, vital performance. The eponymous Don’s motto for life is “Long live women, long live wine!” but Headfirst promise a new take on the opera classic “from the female perspective” and it delivers. This is definitely a feminist take on Don Giovanni. The women, Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Zerlina, are all firmly foregrounded in this version – it is definitely their story – and the show ends, fittingly, with the three wronged women hand-in-hand: “may he burn in hell” indeed.

Such heady action is smartly staged (design by Anna Bonomelli) and contrasted with a pared back, minimalist set of two doors in a bare concrete wall. Two huge clock hands on the wall turn constantly throughout the running time, emphasising the speediness of the action. With the cast in modern dress, the design enhances the new, modern take. Where else are you going to see a man in a tracksuit and trainers singing opera whilst pretending to smoke a cigarette? The orchestral ensemble (conducted by Sonia Ben Santamaria) is excellent and the singing superb, particularly Caroline Modiba as Donna Anna and Samuel Pantcheff as Leporello, who also pulls off all of the best jokes.

The small theatre was almost fully packed on the night I attended, which isn’t surprising given the quality of the entertainment, but it is also an encouraging sight when opera is so often written off as ‘old-fashioned’. Headfirst’s Don Giovanni, under Sophie Gilpin’s smooth direction, proves, resoundingly, that that is not the case. All in all, this is a fresh, vigorous take on a classic opera.


Reviewed by Alice Gray





was at The Pleasance Theatre



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