OPERA / Semiramide - Riverside, London W6

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The Independent Culture
Pocket Opera of Nuremberg does cut-down versions of standard works the way children blithely make space-rockets out of egg-boxes. Rossini's Semiramide was certainly cut down on Monday night (as part of the London Opera Festival). Hardly a stalk was left standing, unless you counted the phallic cardboard girder with which Arsace finally wafted his father's murderer to death.

Female anatomy featured as a sort of manhole, so to speak, centre-stage. From this emerged the Princess Azema, not a soprano here but a small grotesque mime with a bald white forehead and a hugely-padded red-velvet bottom. Two voices gave pleasure: the graceful, agile soprano of Jennifer Rhys-Davies in the title role, and the well-pointed mezzo of Kate McCarney as the Oedipal Arsace.

The comic-book Eurospeak text related to the original in the way that the National Theatre of Brent's Hamlet might relate to the one by Shakespeare. But opera is already funny. If you spoof it, you wind up with gross, sniggering opera-buffery.

The score, reduced almost to wind-band proportions, sounded music-boxy; quite nice, though the players understandably lacked conviction.

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