Classical review: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Holland Park Opera, London
Monday 22 July 2013
Most ‘children’s operas’ are not really that at all, but Holland Park Opera – as its general manager has explained in these columns – is aiming its “Alice” squarely at the youthful end of the market. The background of its composer Will Todd is suitably eclectic, ranging from a jazz Mass, to oratorios, to an anthem for last year’s royal diamond jubilee; its designer Leslie Travers’s most recent exploit was the inspired staging of the Aldeburgh “Grimes on the Beach”; conducting and direction are by Martin Duncan and Stuart Stratford, versatile operators both.
‘Welcome to Wonderland!’ booms a florid-faced Victorian, ushering us into a series of tree-canopied glades. ‘And be ready to move where the action goes.’ We find ourselves facing photographs of a grey wasteland labelled Grimthorpe, and a squabbling grey-clad family marches towards us on a giant chess-board, while a large white rabbit waits in a cage. Alice (Fflur Wyn) appears – wide-eyed, bewildered, a proper little Victorian – and sets the rabbit (James Cleverton) free; he bounds off exultantly, beckoning us to follow.
Now we meet a suitably didactic Humpty-Dumpty (Patricia Orr), a Cheshire Cat with electric-blue fur and detachable smile (James Laing), and Tweedles Dum and Dee (Ciara Hendrick and Elaine Tait) straight out of a Tenniel drawing. On we go again, after a philosophical debate which ends with Humpty falling off his wall, to another glade where a green caterpillar dozes over a half-eaten toadstool and puffs on his hookah: this is Keel Watson’s incarnation of one of Carroll’s most vivid creations, and he does a very fair imitation of Paul Robeson singing an adapted version of Ol’ Man River, with which Alice joins in.
For music fills every second of the show. Alice’s songs vary in style between West End musical and pure Sondheim; the bands awaiting us at each stage of the journey do Thirties Palm Court and Balkan gypsy; when the Red Queen comes on to sing ‘Off with their heads’ – Robert Burt as a high-camp psychopath – we’re almost back in the world of “The Mikado”. For the Mad Hatter’s tea-party – Tenniel again the influence for a surreal set with choreography to match – the loudest echoes are of the Yellow Brick Road.
Maggie Gottlieb’s libretto is sophisticated, but the show is such fun, and so well sung, that not even the youngest kids get bored. Weather permitting - and it did for the premiere – this is a knock-out.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
- 2 Lisa Randolph-Gant: Queen Elsa cake maker says she will carry on baking and will not let people 'break her spirit'
- 3 Tube strike: This pedestrian-friendly map tells you the time it takes to walk between stations
- 4 Pamplona Running of the Bulls 2015: Three men gored and 10 hospitalised on first day of festival
- 5 Sarah Jessica Parker explains why she is not a feminist: 'It's not just about women now'
Artist Milo Moire arrested in Paris for taking naked selfies with passers-by in front of the Eiffel Tower
Is Jon Snow dead? Theories stoked by Kit Harrington's longer hair despite Game of Thrones director claiming he's 'deader than dead'
Noel Gallagher actually gives Kanye West some credit for his Glastonbury headline set: 'For half an hour it was as good as it gets'
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas run through Google's Deep Dream neural network is pure nightmare fuel
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy