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Hummus review at Lewis Cubitt Square, London – ‘flavoured with equal parts humour and pathos’

Nicholas Morris and cast of Hummus. Photo: Claire Shovelton
Nicholas Morris and cast of Hummus. Photo: Claire Shovelton
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Who can resist hummus, that delicious blend of chickpeas, olive oil and garlic? It’s a Middle Eastern cultural touchstone and the name of zesty new opera receiving its UK premiere at Lewis Cubitt Square in King’s Cross.

The protaganist, Andreas, sings ecstatically of the delight of eating lots and lots of hummus. He shares the stage with a six-person vocal ensemble that is equally hummus obsessed. But the ensemble has some serious questions for him: what exactly did Andreas see when he was in that unnamed, beautiful country? What did he experience? He ignores the questions.

As the ensemble’s questioning becomes ever more urgent, Andreas’s hummus mania gives way to memories of witnessing a massacre. Can Andreas fully open the door to his dark recollections?

Composer/librettist Zad Moultaka drew on his own experiences in the Lebanese civil war for this brief but evocative opera. His a capella score mixes elements of Arabic folk music with contemporary classical styles.

Nicholas Morris, in the physically challenging central role, moves easily from a dance of uninhibited gluttony to paroxyms of deep anguish. Morris, making the most of his versatile voice, and the ensemble, conducted by Clara Coelho, grapple with the vocal demands of Moultaka’s score and his tongue-twisting libretto, sung in German.

Max Hoehn, recipient of the 2015 Independent Opera director award, directed the premiere of the work with Opera Lab Europe in Lisbon, and restages it effectively here on an unadorned stage.

Téte a Téte artistic director Bill Bankes-Jones deserves a large bowl of the best hummus for bringing this opera and others to the Cubitt Sessions, which continue through August 13.

 

Verdict
A zesty new opera flavoured with equal parts humour and pathos
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