Opera for the common man: "La Boheme" in a pub

Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:34pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

LONDON Dec 23 - (Reuters) - It takes guts to stage an opera in a working man's pub in an Irish part of London, but the Cock Tavern Theater Company's production of Puccini's "La Boheme," in English and updated for modern audiences, has audiences mesmerized.

A very brief interlude of pole dancing may have something to do with it.

That perhaps un-Pucciniesque touch, performed by the tease Musetta, comes in Act Two when the entire company of mostly young singers, getting a big break to tackle such challenging roles early in their careers, troops downstairs from the tiny theater above the pub, where most of the opera is staged, to do the famous Cafe Momus scene right there -- in the pub.

"They love it," Michael Darby, 62, a native of County Westmeath in Ireland, said of the reaction of the Cock Tavern's regulars.

That includes himself -- and after they got used to the nightly spectacle of an act of late 19th-century Italian opera, set in a French cafe, performed for the paying audience -- the other regulars and even the pool players in the back, if they ever care to look up from the table.

If they don't, they miss one of the most ingenious stagings of this scene ever devised.

The singers and pub patrons almost blend into one, the tavern noise adds the overtones that playing the score on an upright piano can't furnish, and the chorus dotted around the room does a bit of heckling which encourages pub patrons to join in, making it rowdy, boisterous and a huge artistic success.

Following rave reviews for the December opening, the 40-seat theater has often sold out and the run has been extended into February for a production which blows the cobwebs off Puccini's three-hanky melodrama and sets a new standard for bringing opera to the masses.   Continued...