Classical Music

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As Music Theatre London's intense, theatrical way with opera takes off at the South Bank, so the Barbican Hall prepares for another highly individual small company to set up house. It's all the more intriguing that this season by Travelling Opera will include the very work with which MTL is currently amazing the nation on BBC2 - The Marriage of Figaro. You can expect a very different experience. If you hate the updated style and musical-comedy voices of the TV version, this may be just the thing.

Travelling Opera isn't exactly purist itself, and has had some pretty robust fun with another Mozart opera, Don Giovanni. Like other groups operating on the same scale, it slims down the orchestra to a handful of players. But for all its irreverence, it

remains closer to the tradition of bigger companies: trained opera singers, musical expression in the classical style, production values that reflect the varied operatic background of its founder, Peter Knapp.

Puccini's La boheme is the other work playing at the Barbican. This is less easy to deconstruct, and it tends to be avoided by producers so inclined. The passion and pathos have to be delivered with directness, or they are nothing and the sweeping melodic lines sound out in a vacuum. But you can be sure that Travelling Opera's approach will be inimitably its own.

`La boheme' 4 & 6 Jan 7.30pm; `The Marriage of Figaro'

5 Jan 7.30pm, Barbican Hall