By Jenna Schroder
Director Damiano Michieletto's production of Il Viaggio a Reims, and revived by director Meisje Barbara Hummel, takes place in a stark white gallery. The gallery staff are eccentric but they pale in comparison to the subjects that emerge from boxes, sculptures and paintings. The production, a series of vignettes, is an ensemble piece that follows the antics of the gallery staff and subjects of Francois Gerard's "The Coronation of Charles X", who have come to life.
Il Viaggio a Reims experiments with opera's story telling capabilities. The libretto is ignored for the most part with revival director Meisje Barbara Hummel finding meaning and story through the character's interactions with the set and each other. As such, it isn't often clear where the narrative is going and what is leading the actions of the characters. But this in no way detracts from the entertaining nature of the production. Rather, Hummel coaxes the audience into enjoying the production's manic sense of confusion and fun.
Working with ingenious sets and costumes, by Paolo Fantin and Carla Teti respectively, Hummel pulls off a number of inventive, must see gimmicks around the theme of art coming alive. The production offers laugh out loud humour alongside its energetic playfulness with Teddy Tahu Rhodes' rendezvous with a painting a particularly memorable example. Running amok throughout the gallery, most of the cast jump into the often ungainly frivolity of their characters with gusto but Emma Pearson performs the role of Contessa di Folleville with particular comedy prowess, milking her melodramatic characterisation and grasping every physical comedy opportunity she is afforded.
This is a production that places audience entertainment and nonsensical silliness at the centre of its artistic vision and the musical components of the opera, from interludes to arias, plays second fiddle at times. But that doesn't stop the cast from showing off their high class vocal chops. Ruth Iniesta as Corinna showcases unbelievably clear and controlled coloratura alongside ambitious cadenza while Pearson earns rapturous applause in Act One for her dynamic control. It is hard to pick a stand out as every cast member, all fifteen, weaves the technical score together with such ease it were as if they were speaking lines in a melodic language. The orchestra matches them with a hearty, warm sound.
This daring and ambitious reinterpretation will surely be a polarising production for audiences but no matter if you love or hate it, Il Vaggio a Reims will defy your expectations and make you reconsider your assumptions of opera.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.