The Bartered Bride
CHRISTOPHER SMITH Opera North and Norwich Theatre Royal
A transformer complete with cables and porcelain insulators is the image of this production.
Daniel Slater sets out to give Smetana's opera a new direction, electrifying the story with a charge of modern political relevance.
Only grumpy traditionalists might refuse to see the light, and their objections are blown away by the magic and colour when the circus arrives to cheer us all up with its somersaults. The setting is Czechoslovakia in 1972 and the matchmaker has become a bullying mayor, played by Jeremy White with plenty of dark tone. Despite the social realism of dreary costumes instead of the usual pretty folklore, the rest of the cast is allowed to remain true to type.
Giselle Allen is a heroine passionate in despair, glorious in triumph, while as her lover, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts sounds better than he looks. Iain Paton is successful with his interpretation of the tricky role of a tenor with a stutter, and from Claire Wild as Esmeralda comes a welcome touch of glamour.
The opera is performed in English, which adds a lot to enjoyment.
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The conductor is Martyn Brabbins. He enters with a will into the vigour of the dancers, then puts on the brakes to bring out the moments of pathos.