LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: The Adventures of Pinocchio
PERFORMER: Victoria Simmonds, Jonathan Summers, Mary Plazas, Rebecca Bottone, Graeme Broadbent, Allan Clayton, Mark Wilde, James Laing, Carole Wilson; Opera North Chorus & Orchestra/David Parry; dir. Martin Duncan (London, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1005 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
A log of wood singing ‘make me’ is hardly a typical operatic opening. Geppetto is initially cautious (‘talking wood, that’s not good’), but curiosity is aroused for adult and child alike from the first notes of Jonathan Dove’s lavish and fantastical new opera genuinely for all age-groups.
Collodi’s story is much darker than Disney’s film, and any Jiminy Cricket associations are literally squashed in the second scene when Pinocchio throws a mallet and kills Rebecca Bottone’s Cricket as it cheekily pricks his conscience.
The scary moments are balanced by the joie de vivre of Alasdair Middleton’s witty libretto and Martin Duncan’s imaginative staging. Unlike Pinocchio himself, this tale of a wooden boy who wants to be good but is repeatedly led astray barely falters during its two-and-a-half hour roller-coaster ride.
There are numerous memorable moments, from extravagant set-pieces such as Funland to the tender scene inside the whale when Pinocchio is reunited with Geppetto. Onstage virtually throughout, Victoria Simmonds conveys Pinocchio’s flitting moods, from unthinkingly selfish to equally thoughtless acts of love, open-eyed enthusiasm to despondent sulks, with charm and verve.
The title role aside, this is a genuine ensemble piece, but special mention should be made of Mary Plazas crystalline Blue Fairy and Jonathan Summers mildly doddery Geppetto.
Plaudits should also go to the chorus, whose scenes are always visually and sonically spectacular, while the stunning surround sound of the DVD capturing every detail of Opera North’s bold undertaking wonderfully well. Christopher Dingle