In her essay Baroque-'n'-Roll, Brigid Brophy wrote: "Form is the constant in all the arts." So what's the form deployed in these two riotous hours of theatrical anarchy? A comic collision between theatre and opera, your senses are further assaulted by the "frying tonight" ambiance of the cookery demonstration running throughout the show.
Over a decade ago, to the accompaniment of the gurgling of the audience's stomachs, Joan Plowright cooked a meal during a production of di Filippo's Saturday, Sunday, Monday. But only the cast got to eat it. Here, everyone samples the goods. "This dish contains no animal products or artificial preservatives." Hardly your typical theatre programme note.
Audience members are welcomed by hearty Jennie Rodriguez, the kind of fiery performer who makes Chita Rivera look like Alastair Burnett. She's one of the cooks who narrate the story, from whom it's immediately clear that the evening will not hold to the traditional relationship of actors being at a safe remove. Indeed, the entire audience is whirled up into a joyous conga line out of the theatre and back again. No matter what the Royal Opera House pulls off in its opening season, I can't see them managing that.
This episodic tale of worlds old and new begins in Mexico, but after the opening, nonsensical row about the best way to cook white rice and black beans (Moros Y Christianos - Moors and Christians) the aristocratic Amo and his servant Francisquillo set off on a grand tour of 18th century Europe. With a set piece at the carnival in Venice and a soprano courtesan seduced by jewels, it's faintly reminiscent of the musical, Candide. But instead of using Bernstein's score for accompaniment, this uses everyone from Mozart and Mendelssohn via Vivaldi and Handel - both of whom appear as characters - to Louis Armstrong, plus Spanish songs with infectious Latin rhythms from a percussion ensemble that beat the hell out of everything from drums to pots and pans.
The winningly boisterous Opera Transatlantica company leaps across the language barrier - with the odd bit of English thrown in to help - as they whip up a terrific shipwreck, perform excerpts from Vivaldi's Montezuma, do a St Vitus dance of delight and engage in vastly entertaining culture clashes. All in all, it's something of a sensual fantastic voyage. Arrive early, read the synopsis, and enjoy your meal.
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