When: 22nd June – 16th July 2011, Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 3pm
Where: at a secret location in Limehouse, London
£: 15 (12.50 concessions)
What is it?
2011 Oliver Award winning Musical Director Andrew Charity (La Boheme) brings an international cast of rising opera stars and a chorus of fifteen to East London for an adaptation of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Consul (1950). Lesya Aleksyeyeva (Ukraine), Rita Novikaite (Lithuania), Masami Uehara (Japan) and Xiaoran Wang (China) are joined by a diverse chorus of London voices, representing over twelve different nationalities to sing this opera of borders and national divides.
Set in a totalitarian regime in an unnamed European country, The Consul tells the story of Magda’s desperate attempts to obtain a visa to leave the country so she can join her husband John, a political dissident. Lesya Aleksyeyeva who plays Magda is the permanent principle soloist at the Ukrainian National Opera and is based at the Taras Shevchenko Opera House in Kiev.
After being ushered onto the stairs of the host building and being assigned a number the action kicked off with a ‘magic trick’ involving a member of the audience. Once the singing started it became apparent that the building’s acoustics weren’t good enough to carry off this unusual opera. From where I was stood all I could hear was the piano accompaniment.
The action moved upstairs where there was a mini-orchestra set up on packing crates and minimal but well-chosen props denoting the set. As the scenes changed we were shuffled around the room. There is no doubt that some of the singers were very talented but again the building just wasn’t right for an opera. Had it been a straightforward play done in this manner, it would have been fantastic. There have been other unusual settings for operas that have worked better including railway stations and supermarkets. Because I was busy straining to hear properly it was harder than it should have been to follow the plot.
The plus points were that it was only an hour long with reasonably priced tickets, so if you are new to opera it’s probably a good way to dip your toe in and Lesya Aleksyeyeva clearly has a great voice despite the poor acoustics. However, I would avoid spending £1 on the small photocopied programme as it was not worth the money.
The Secret Consul is the third in a series of site specific performances entitled A Whole World at War from The Wedding Collective. Led by Artistic Director Stephen Tiller, previous work in the site specific trilogy includes Warcrime, telling the tale of a young woman killed by a cluster bomb and staged in the crypt of a bombed church in Holborn, and The Daughter, based on a Palestinian schoolgirl presented at Truman’s Brewery in Brick Lane.