With help from the ingenious design of Alyson Cummins, Marie Lambert's hugely appealing production of this rarely performed opera makes a virtue of the wide, shallow OHP stage, letting us into a cross-section of the French music hall. From side to side we see the raggle-taggle performers and their audience, busy backstage, dressing rooms, scene dock, and, finally, the outside world.
Set by Lambert and Cummins in the striding Twenties, while its vaudevillians work doggedly in a world of Edwardian frou-frou, Zazà is refreshingly clear-eyed about a woman's life: the musical hall star of the title has been raised by a woman on her own (Louise Winter as Anaide, sousing still-got-it allure with lashings of drink).
Childhood deprivations colour Zazà's own actions when she discovers her lover Milio is married with a daughter. Joel Montero in this demanding tenor role has a some good notes but takes curious backroads between them.
Memorable is the scene in which Zaza, her dresser Natalia, the lover's wife and little girl (Aida Ippolito in a speaking role) come face to face. It is the realisation that the girl Totò, a sort of "everychild", could also grow up without a father present, changes everything for Zazà. In this soprano role, OHP favourite Anne Sophie Duprels does everything she can, but the piece left me strangely unmoved, for all its promising components, the score is a little watery and gritless.
Much less well-known than the same composer's I Pagliacci (look out for this at the Royal Opera House this Christmas), Zazà is, nevertheless, a collector's item, and as always at OHP, everyone in the team works their socks off. Opera Holland Park has made a speciality of staging neglected operas from the late Italian verismo period, and for that alone, this is an event. Next year it goes to the rescue of Mascagni's Isabeau.
The City of London Sinfonia and Opera Holland Park Chorus under Peter Robinson are as dependable as ever, with some lovely woodwind playing, but for me the night went to the baritone Richard Burkhard as Zazà's former lover, partner in her double act, and mentor. Each of his numbers is a high point, sumptuously sung, sympathetic in character, focused and authoritative.
Zazà should have stuck with him.
Zazà is sung in Italian, with English surtitles. Tickets are still available for 20, 22, 27 and 29 July.
|What||Zazà, Opera Holland Park review|
|Where||Opera Holland Park, Stable Yard, Holland Park, London , W8 6LU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||High Street Kensington (underground)|
18 Jul 17 – 29 Jul 17, five performances
|Price||£18 - £70|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|