Review by Olivia Ruggiero
A cute and intimate setting in the heart of Edinburgh is where this rambunctiously funny opera comedy matinee takes place. Decked in gorgeous lounges, mood lighting, bar chairs, and surrounded by medieval stone walls, this cozy space is possibly one of the sweetest venues the Fringe has to offer.
Steph Deprez’s goal is for her audience to leave “opera curious” – a very achievable and lovely sentiment that she definitely accomplishes by the end of her show. An American comedienne and opera singer, Steph has a lovely stage presence that immediately relaxes her audience and makes them feel at home.
Steph opens with O Mio Babbino Caro from “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini, a very well-known and classic operatic aria – or as she points out, that one from the pasta commercial in the 90’s – that is a seemingly easy sing but as any singer will tell you – it’s definitely not! Steph tackles the aria well – interjecting with modern and funny translations of the text when she can spare a breath, that allows the audience to fully engage with the aria and know what Puccini’s aria is actually about – not just appreciate the divine legato melodic lines and portamenti (in abundance). Steph’s voice truly shines though in the Wagnerian and Verdi arias that she later sings. This is clearly her strength as an opera singer. Her powerful voice, piercing over the top of the luscious, thickly orchestrated music (this case a backing track) and the full might of her range in flight. I would have loved a live accompanist for Steph, as I feel a voice like that deserves it, but this is a Fringe show and constraints need to be appreciated. Steph ends with Musetta’s Waltz Song, another classic from “La Boheme” by Puccini – and a fabulously funny rendition of it as well. She takes the sexy, sultry Musetta and turns her into a tease whose drama queen tendencies are wonderfully highlighted in this interpretation of the aria.
Steph is clearly an expert at her craft, whilst she delivers the stand-up comedy element of her show with great expertise (although not always the classiest of humour), it’s in the semi-Masterclass portion of her show that I am truly impressed. She talks about vocal physiology with great knowledge, so much so that I would happily send any of my students to her. Not only this but she needs to applauded for doing this show 25 days straight (at the point I had seen it), which is not the norm for opera singers. It takes incredibly sustainable technique and she is still pulling off the arias with great gusto and the comedy is fresh and interesting.
Some of the subject matter of her stand up might be a little risqué for the general demographic of an opera loving audience but as a young opera lover, I so appreciated the energy and humour Steph brought to the show. Steph makes a wonderful point – “opera singers are people too” – and I feel this could be the tagline of her show. She brings opera down off its pedestal and makes it accessible to the masses, so she achieves what she sets out to do, and her audience leaves “opera curious”. A wonderful outcome for his fabulously talented soprano.