Written to rival a piece by Salieri for a music competition in 1786 The Impresario is a short, light and comic piece of singspiel that follows the difficulty of handling sensitive divas and running a struggling opera house.
If you are the person that sees the word ‘opera’, immediately thinks of lengthy pieces in foreign languages and runs a hundred miles, don’t. This production includes a substantial amount of spoken dialogue and is sung in English; as such it is an ideal piece to see if you’re not overly familiar with opera or are interested but can’t face a full blown three act production just yet.
Oliver Zeffman, a young but accomplished conductor, leads a relatively small orchestra of eleven musicians who bounce through the score with confidence, accuracy and, crucially, great sensitivity when accompanying the soloists. It was a lovely touch to have the orchestra seated on stage and to use them as actors - I particularly enjoyed the Viola player whipping out a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey to pass the time between pieces.
The young singers tackled the challenging score well, demonstrating great vocal flexibility in coloratura sections - special mention must go to Nazan Fikret (Madame Herz) whose performance was superb, her powerful and rich tone sailed over the orchestra and filled the room.
Regrettably the common criticism of opera is once again applicable - the acting needs work. This is particularly important in a piece such as this that has large sections of dialogue. The script was at times very entertaining, but the delivery felt uncomfortable and, although it lends itself to slightly camp acting, they stretched this idea too far. Victoria Atkinson looked a little more comfortable with the segments of spoken word, commanding the stage reasonably well, but sadly her singing voice was all but lost in the duets and group numbers.
On the whole it is a light, entertaining hour of opera bouffant which showcases some super up and coming talent and will leave you with a smile on your face.