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Trioperas review at Peacock Theatre, London – ‘a trilogy of potted operas’

Chiara Vinci and the cast of Butterfly in Trioperas at Peacock Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Some of the best moments in Trioperas come when the show gets furthest away from conventional expectations of opera.

There’s the breakdancing in the potted version of Turandot. Then a short-lived Butterfly takes flight in its aerial ballets. Finally, the quickfire Carmen scores with a police chase on trampolines, a bullfight-cum-Chinese dragon dance, and string stylings that carry a whiff of Old Havana.

Where Trioperas betrays weakness is in the essentials of narrative and characterisation.

With these eclectic reimaginings of favourite works, the protean Pamela Tan-Nicholson laudably wants to reach beyond the opera buffs. But a neophyte might have trouble knowing just what is going on.

Each of the three sections, which contain no spoken dialogue, lasts just half an hour or so. Rather than paring things down to essentials, Tan-Nicholson wants to cover as much ground as possible while generating maximum visual excitement.

Plot developments are often rushed or assigned out of the blue to a narrator or chorus. In Butterfly the all-important title character gets crowded out by incidental action and the supporting cast.

Nor does it help that the amplification – of both voices and instruments – tends to overpower the (English) lyrics. The surtitles highlight the text’s reliance on obvious rhymes or locutions like “we would ourselves deny our joy”.

The words do not always sit easily with the lines of Puccini and Bizet that Tan-Nicholson has chosen to retain. At the piano, she is a dynamic member of the instrumental ensemble and performances overall are committed and often exuberant, with especially strong showings from Lucy Kay, Chiara Vinci, Naoto Kaiho and Richard Munday.

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Narrative and characterisation get lost in the mix in this trilogy of abridged operas