The Secret Marriage

Domenico Cimerosa
British Youth Opera
Peacock Theatre

Coad and Travis Credit: Clive Barda
Travis and Scott Credit: Clive Barda
Lowe, Scott and Coad Credit: Clive Barda

It’s not often an opera keeps an audience roaring with laughter for three plus hours. Six talented young singers deliver Cimarosa’s superbly silly Secret Marriage in the Peacock Theatre, Saddlers Wells.

British Youth Opera showcases young operatic talent, picking the brightest and best from their 400+ auditionees. This summer, 60 singers have been involved in their two productions, Paul Bunyan and tonight’s offering The Secret Marriage.

Director Martin Lloyd Evans makes sure we have a whale of a time with Cimarosa’s only regularly performed Opera Buffa. The tricky vocal lines and constant tongue-twister lyrics don’t stop the cast from diving into Evan’s playful direction. Done in true farce style there’s exaggerated dancing, deafness and long legs in lingerie.

Mandy Demitrou’s stylized movement complements the rolling gags: the cast run on the spot whilst the servants whiz past with paintings and some fabulous 20s dancing from the Count and Geronimo singing tra la la are particuar highlights. This is all done to a slick art deco design (Ellan Parry) with beautiful colour block lighting (David Lowe), set off with fabulously frivolous costumes. The cast are glammed up in flapper dresses, extroadinary trousers and Rosalind Coads shows off her legs in a risqué basque and see-throgh dressing gown ensemble.

The show opens with Carolina (Alice Rose Privett) and Paulino (Nick Pritchard) bonking on a bed wheeled in by their servants (made up of the solo covers). The pair have been secretly married for two months and are deliberating how to break the news to Carolina’s difficult father Geronimo (Frazer Scott). Intending to cushion the news, Paulino sets up a marriage for Geronimo’s other daughter Elisetta (Rosalind Coad) and a member of the aristocracy, Count Robinson (Bradley Travis). Unfortunately, the bluntly spoken Count prefers Carolina, unaware she’s already been taken and the inevitable mayhem ensues.

In this strong cast, it’s a credit that Frazer Scott and Heather Lowe still stand out, the former's canny ability as a 20-something singer to transform himself into a blustery, blethering 60-year-old. Lowe’s voice is exquisitely easy to listen to, coupled with a sharp wit and fabulous facial expressions. Bradley Travis tops off the comedy as a wonderfully debonair Count. Devilishly difficult coloratura is negotiated well by Rosalind Coad, if occasionally needing to soften the harsher edge to her voice. The pair of lovers complement the ensemble as sweet and smitten.

Roy Laughlan keeps the orchestra fun and fast-paced, nearly making up for Cimarosa’s over-egged ending of the second act. Occassionally, closer co-ordination is needed between orchestra and singers, but will undoubtedly settle with another performance.

Lowe, Scott and Travis have bright futures ahead as comedy gems, and BYO has managed to produce a wonderfully funny show. The main criticism? There’s only one more performance.

Reviewer: Louise Lewis

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