/TriOperas: Peacock Theatre (2018)

TriOperas: Peacock Theatre (2018)


Pamela Tan-Nicholson’s world premiere of TriOperas is now showing at the Peacock Theatre, and it is exactly what the name suggests. TriOperas reveals the stories behind three operatic epics under the names, Turandot, Butterfly, Carmen Reimagined. Having seen it, I can confidently say those expecting to see classical opera will be disappointed. Nevertheless, this ambitious show, which compresses Puccini and Bizet’s operas with operatic singing, kung-fu, breakdancing, ballet, tap, Chinese lion wushu, acrobatics and salsa, deserves credit for showcasing operatic works in a way that makes opera accessible to young theatregoers.

Sianna Bruce and Daniel Slade in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

TriOperas is a collaborative work inspired by Sadler’s Wells’ Breakin’ Convention Director Jonzi D, music director Vasko Vassilev from the Royal Opera House, Siow and Tang from Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association, Steven McRae from the Royal Ballet and many more big names. To create a cross-over production with various artists from different backgrounds is no mean feat and this is what piqued my interest.

Anastasia Quinton-Smith, Matthew McCabe and Chiara Vinci in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

The overall aesthetics of TriOperas is marvellous with its colourful and bright designs that are worth adoration. From Christian Collins’s set designs, costume production by Anne-Marie Bigby, Georgianna Butler, Pepiana Ganeva and Andii Lindsay, and makeup design by Lucy Clements, one can tell these creative specialists poured their artistry into bringing Madam Butterfly’s humble Japanese home and Carmen’s mischievous lair to life. The acrobatic dancing that unfolds above the audiences’ heads is also novel and slick. Yet the real heroes in this production are the talented young cast and gifted musicians who play a significant part in igniting and threading these versatile genres together. Some members are from the BRIT School (some of which have never performed on stage before). Each comes with a range of skills, having trained in different art forms.

Shoreina Pereira, Sara Hamilton, Martina Mennell and Chiara Vinci in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

This family show begins with Turandot, based on the tale of a warrior princess from Ancient China. Speaking as someone who is more familiar with the opera, knowing it is harder to follow, I felt it was the weakest of the three parts in TriOperas’s storytelling (frankly, it is the most serious and least interesting opera out of the three.) The multitude of genres felt mixed and overwhelming at times, but this was absent in Carmen and Butterfly where TriOperas triumphed the most. Turandot may put some audiences off, but hold on until the second part for Butterfly and you’ll see the romance and drama begin. The tap dancing geishas and bullfight turned Chinese lion dancing is certainly different and innovative.

Chiara Vinci and the Cast of TriOperas in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

Lucy Kay, Naoto Kaiho, Chiara Vinci, Richard Munday and Keedie Green excellently performed their lead roles. Some voices are bolder and stronger than the Peacock Theatre can hold. In each show, Green, Vinci and Kay rotate and share the female roles of Carmen, Turandot and Cio-Cio san. Not only does this make it interesting for them as performers but demonstrates Tan-Nicholson’s idealism – that women can empathise with these characters, one way or another.

Cham Gong Ming and Toh Chin Xian (as the Bull) and Richard Munday in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

Each part is 30 minutes long and two 20-25 minutes intervals are shared between them. For a Sunday matinee, this worked well, yet I can imagine the long waiting times deterring evening audiences especially if they are visiting during the week.

The score of each part is inspired by the original music by Bizet (Carmen) and Puccini (Butterfly and Turandot). Deep down, I wished I could hear the words of ‘Nessum Dorma’ in Turandot, but Tan-Nicholson has done an impressive job in creating new lyrics that are easy to follow and close to the storyline. When coming to see TriOperas‘s show, one must open their mind and see opera reimagined. Those new to opera may have an advantage, yet those familiar with classical operas must lock away their preconceptions and leave them behind to truly enjoy the show.

Richard Munday, Keedie Green and Chiara Vinci in Trioperas © Tristram Kenton

TriOperas’s Turandot, Butterfly, Carmen Reimagined is now showing at the Peacock Theatre, Holborn until 1 July. Tickets available online here.

(I was provided a press ticket to review the show.)

[Header image: Lucy Aiston, Naoto Kaiho & Sara Hamilton and the cast of Trioperas © Tristram Kenton ]