Shakespeare's tragic Romeo and Juliet is among the most popular plays ever written. Surprisingly though, the star-crossed lovers weren't the Bard's idea, but were gifted to him in a Renaissance story that he read and then appropriated.
Just like Shakespeare, Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini drew inspiration from the original Italian story of Romeo and Juliet, and himself wrote a darker and - can you believe it - somehow more heartbreaking version: the opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi, which is this spring brought to life in a number of intimate settings throughout London by Pop-Up Opera.
In these cosy, small London venues, from the Asylum Chapel, Peckham to St Peter's De Beauvoir Church, a winning combination of critically acclaimed singers, a familiar story and projections that translate the action every 10 seconds or so (like a silent film), offer total immersion in the drama. Too often opera is hampered by the audience's lack of understanding or on their having to read a word-for-word translation, never looking up at the performance before them. But not here. This among the most accessible operatic staging we'd ever seen.
Bellini's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet features a 'trouser role' which means Romeo is a mezzo-soprano part played by a woman - arguably a decision Bellini thought would emphasise the youth and vulnerability of the lovers. Performed magnificently by critically acclaimed Flora McIntosh, whose droll eye-rolls turn sarcasm into a facial expression, she is utterly believable as the hot-headed and irresistible male lead.
McIntosh is joined by an outstanding cast, including winner of the Helen Clarke and Leonardo Ingrams awards, Alice Privett as Giulietta, (who in this adaptation brings misery through her indecision), Andrew Tipple as Capellio, Cliff Zammit-Stevens as Tebaldo and Matthew Palmer as Lorenzo.
This is Romeo and Juliet as you've never seen it before - more brutal and gruelling than anything Shakespeare ever penned - and performed so close up that the singers voices and faces full of angst hover just before you. This is an absolute must-see, an 'in the know' delight that we would like to go back and watch every night of the week.
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes plus interval
Recommended ages 12+
|Pop-Up Opera, I Capuleti e I Montecchi
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
29 Mar 16 – 07 May 16, Times Vary
|Click here to book via Pop-Up Opera's website