I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Pop-Up Opera at Port Regis and touring

POP-Up Opera made its Shaftesbury debut at Port Regis with the current touring production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Librettist Felice Romani used the same source as Shakespeare for his work, but for the Pop-Up version Harry Percival (philosopher, economist, computer scientist and stand up comedian) has provided a modern interpretation in surtitles, occasionally spectacularly at odds with the words that are being sung in the original Italian.  This is to follow stage director James Hurley’s modern setting, a tense Mafioso-style stand off between those Capulets and Montagues.

Reduced to five performers – Juliet and her father, his preferred suitor and a family retainer, and of course young Romeo – this version goes immediately to the heart of the story.

The singing in this production, directed by Berrak Dyer, is magnificent, particularly from Flora McIntosh and Alice Privett in the main roles. It’s intensity is magnified in the intimate setting of the Farrington Hall at the fast-growing prep school between Shaftesbury and Gillingham.

One of the company’s main aims is to make opera “accessible, enjoyable and inviting”, taking it to unusual and informal spaces. The Farrington Hall is a wonderful facility, its excellent acoustics specially created for performance. I wonder if hard-working repetiteur Richard Leach was unused to the quality of the Farrington sound, as at times he seemed to be playing to fill an aircraft hanger.

Bellini’s decision to write for a mezzo-soprano as Romeo brings a different dimension to his opera, and the intimacy of  Flora McIntosh’s intense performance made this brash, passionate and confused young man totally believable. With Alice Privett’s Guilietta, these were two teenagers growing up fast in a world of adult violence – just what the Romeo and Juliet story should be about.

The story is about them and they are at the centre of all the action, but that is not an excuse to ignore the other participants, and it seemed as though Andrew Tipple (Capellio/Capulet) and Cliff Zammit-Stevens  (Tebaldo/Tybalt) had been told to act like angry men and wave their guns about a bit, and  and Richard Immergluck as Lorenzo the go-between to be perpetually worried, rather than taking time to explore their characters. It made for an unbalanced overall acting style.

But the central performances, and the singing, make it well worth the visit.


Photographs by Richard Lakos

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