TRADITIONAL comic operas have always been about unrequited love and passion, with a bit of cross-dressing thrown in for good measure, writes Lesley Potter.
But a young Britishopera company which specialises in updating the classics has surpassed itself this time by throwing Mozart, Puccini and Brahms into a big melting pot and adding a splash of Irving Berlin to produce a romping romcom that would make any diva proud.
Kiss me, Figaro! is the latest production by the Merry Opera Company and the final performance of its current tour will take place at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday, June 28.
Katherine Ives, Merry Opera spokesman, said: “We are thrilled to be back at the Kenton Theatre for the fourth year running. This year’s show is a new romantic comedy set backstage at the opera where offstage romance and drama is played out for real when the curtain rises.”
In a storyline straight out of the wings of a Viennese opera house, the soprano diva has hated the handsome tenor ever since he jilted her at the altar, but now he has returned - and he wants her back.
“Kiss me, Figaro! is effectively a jukebox opera,” continued Katherine. “The show includes a wide range of operatic favourites, together with some more unusual repertoire and songs by Irving Berlin and his contemporaries.
“There are new translations and bespoke arrangements. It’s treat for opera fans and a fun introduction for those new to opera.”
The Merry Opera Company staged Mozart’s The Magic Flute last year to a full house at the Kenton Theatre.
They also received rapturous applause with a new stage production of Handel’s Messiah which was shown at the Christ Church Centre. They have also previously staged La Traviata and Troy Boy (also known as La Belle Helene) in Henley.
Music director and conductor Stephen Hose has Henley connections, as he used to teach piano at Shiplake College. More recently, he has worked as an accompanist for BBC2’s The Choir alongside Gareth Malone.
Director John Ramster has worked all over Europe as well as the UK. He is a professor of acting at the Royal Academy of Music and also a screenwriter for soap operas — no doubt a skill that has been called upon for this production.
• Kiss me, Figaro! is at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday, June 28. Box office (01491) 575698 or visit www.kenton theatre.co.uk