Friday, 30 August 2013

The Crocodile, Tete a Tete Opera Festival

One of the most popular operas of this year's Tete a Tete festival, The Crocodile - an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novella of the same name - turned out to be a riotous delight. Little expense had been spared in producing this black comedy (in which a writer is eaten by the eponymous reptile, a sort of Expo exhibit, before it is discovered that he is actually alive and determined to take a sabattical in his new environment). A two-tier set with a staircase behind which an orchestra of a dozen or so play throughout held a similarly sized-cast. The buffoonish hosts (Leandros Taliotis & Kris Belligh) and [un]fortunate writer (Graham Neal) are engaged throughout in an underplayed class war with Christina Petrou's maid, recalling the setup of Puccini's Rondine which had only just finished playing over the other side of London at the Royal Opera House. The finesse of this quartet dovetailed well with the nicely controlled Guignol of the posh guests (James Soller & Jane Webster), a reporter (Alexander Beck), a familiar figure for those of us who had seen the not entirely dissimilar Orango a few months ago. The ensemble was well-seasoned with the more parlando deliver of Peter Corry in a raconteur role.

If the ensemble was crowned with the remarkable coloratura (and stage bravura) of Kristy Swift as the author's wife then the piece is well and truly pimped in Alex Sutton's production as the almost magic realism of the situation is exploded in a every conceivable trappings of the most extravagant ticker-tape reception. Even if the piece can't quite hold its own high-rev opening throughout, it certainly ends with all its showbiz artillery well and truly exhausted. And, of course, at its heart is a crocodile, marvellously manipulated on-stage and then touchingly danced in postlude by Caroline Mathias.

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