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The male gaze: Turning the screw

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It's been a while since trips to the theatre. I've been busy. But it's nice to see that it's the creative process that is at the heart of Kevin Kelly's Turning the Screw. And what gives rise to it. It's a dramatisation of the creative process leading up to composer Benjamin Britten's premiere of his opera, The Turning of the Screw. With deadlines approaching, Britten seems stuck over melodies and unsure about completing the piece for its summer premiere. But the selection of twelve-year-old choirboy David Hemmings in the leading role of Miles within the opera is the spark that motivates him to complete the piece. And his presence may stir other feelings, too. It's currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre .  Britten's fascination with young boys has been the subject of a detailed book, Britten's Children. The book suggests that Britten saw himself as a young boy of 13. It's almost as if he saw himself as Peter Pan, albeit if Peter Pan was a

Brief encounters: La Tragédie de Carmen @popupoperauk

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In La Tragédie de Carmen, Popup Opera have a distilled version of Bizet’s Carmen devised by Peter Brook in the early 1980s. The gypsies are gone and all that’s left is the love triangle. And some of the best tunes... Carmen in some ways can survive being messed about with. The Royal Opera afterall is presenting Carmen in a gorilla suit . Cutting out large chunks of the story and setting it during the Spanish Civil War makes less sense. And in the venue of the Peckham Asylum the sightlines were a bit challenging. But it still works better than expected. Popup Opera is known for their fresh take on comic operas that tour around the country. But they are on a winner with a more dramatic piece for their autumn season. It doesn’t mess about getting to the best arias. And it helps they’ve assembled a youthful and impressive quartet to bring out the passion. Chloe Latchmore dazzles as Carmen, using her body and her voice as the seductive and sensual woman. She holds your attention with her c

Secret marriages and other rivalries: Il Matrimonio Segreto @popupoperauk

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Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage) continues Pop-up Opera's tradition of semi-staging rarely seen works in unusual locations. It's playing at various sites across the country until 30 July. This rarely-seen work is perfect for their style. It's a little bit silly. It has some great arias. And it showcases some fabulous voices from its young and energetic cast. Of course being Pop-up Opera, they add some 21st century flourishes to this  18th century opera. There are endless references to politics and on-point trends.

High stakes and high vocals: I Capuleti e i Montecchi @PopupOperaUK

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Continuing their tradition of opera in surprising and unusual locations, Pop Up Opera delivers a sensational and dramatic compact performance of Bellini's I Capuleti E I Montecchi. It is easy to get swept away with the drama on stage thanks to the strong performances of the leads. While every venue they perform in is different, the basement of a Baker Street restaurant lent itself well to this reworking of Romeo and Juliet. The action takes place in low places and hiding areas and so the polished concrete and bare staging worked well here. And the hard surfaces meant you could hear every aria and recitative.

Those underground Italian girls: L’Italiana In Algeri @popupoperauk

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Popup Opera’s second summer show is full of energy, enthusiasm and some fine singing… Even if it is a rather silly show, it is great to see a piece that has not been performed in London for a while in such an unusual space. This minimalist opera group has pared back Rossini’s work and taken away all that business of harems and bad Turks. Instead it moves the story to a modern day den on iniquity - Las Vegas - and the Algiers Hotel. Popup Opera’s unusual choice of venues and performing lesser known works (with a modern twist) is a great introduction to opera.  Silly plotted operas work well with this format and so moving the piece to Vegas gives the tale of gambling, infidelity and cheap thrills a new dimension. Although perhaps a few cuts in the second half to bring things to a quicker conclusion might help.

Hammams of convenience: Mozart's Die Entführung @PopupOperaUK

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There is something appealingly convenient about the format of Pop Up Opera’s productions. They take witty (and often seldom performed) pieces and stage them in unusual locations, with a modern twist. The convenient part comes in the fact these locations are either close to your place of work, your home et cetera. So by the time Die Entführung came to south east London, I was ready to go. Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is about a hero, Belmonte and his servant, Pedrillo, and their attempts to rescue their lovers, Konstanze and Blonde from an Ottoman harem. Given the popup opera treatment, the harem is now a big brother-like bath house come beauty boot camp where no men are allowed. And no women are allowed to leave (at least until the treatments are complete). In this production most of the spoken dialogue is removed and in place are some rather witty title cards. The role of the figurehead-dictator Pasha Selim is now an omniprese