It is clear from the moment that you enter FACTORY 7 that Opera di Peroni has one objective: the fusion of tradition and modernity. Breathing new life into this enduring tale of love and loss is a challenge that director James Hurley and Go Opera have undertaken with gusto. It is their aim that this niche market attracts a new audience, but have they succeeded?
With their help, La Rondine has descended from the lofty heights of Covent Garden and Italian opera houses; The Swallow is now nesting within the stripped-back confines of a Shoreditch warehouse.
You immediately feel a sense of involvement in the production when wandering amid the scenery. The audience becomes part of the furniture in the lives of Puccini’s reanimated characters; at times it feels as though you are voyeuristically watching people’s lives played out in an IKEA showroom. What could be more modern? It’s like reality television in an even more palpable dimension as one of the protagonists brushes past you. Yes, this is an immersive experience – do expect to find yourself pushed out of the way by Magda or Lisette, as they flounce through the crowd.
Magda’s character has been given an overhaul from courtesan to modern day celebrity behemoth: “the Monroe of the 21st century”. Instead of selling her body, Magda has scarified every facet of her soul at the altar of “celebrity”.
The cast keep up an energetic performance that spirits you across the factory floor for each act. Kwes, the music producer, ensures that he matches the traditional orchestral instruments with his own flashes of modernity as the characters dance the night away in a club under shimmering lights.
This is not just opera anymore, it’s an experience. The crowd whisper to each other as they crane around lampshades and other spectators to catch glimpses of the cast members as they fly around the room.
And for anyone scared by the prospect of opera, you have no reason to fear: the English translations are kindly projected onto the bare-brick walls.
Our rating: ****