Press and Audience Response
"I would urge you to catch thee productions wherever they happen to be playing -as they make for an unforgettable visual and listening experience... for sheer inventiveness and originality-this company has to have full marks"
"I think this is probably the best opera I've ever reviewed."
"Pop-Up Opera aim to take opera out to the 'hesitant, as well as to dedicated opera lovers'. I confess to having been hesitant, but I'm suddenly in danger of becoming dedicated."
"...a completely fresh approach to a traditionally fusty genre. It's frenetic, light-hearted and engaging."
"The King's Head recently staged this show on a similar scale, set in the Hollywood Hills, to rave reviews. This production however, is bursting under the weight of it's own merit, and it's talented, and charismatic cast deserve nothing less than the same levels of success, if not even more."
"Ever so slightly crackers, Pop Up Opera's new piece is appealingly crazy"
"Basically, book tickets now. If only because some of these voices may be stars in ten years' time, and you can say you saw them first, singing out of a window onto Dean Street."
"If any group can make opera converts, this one can."
"Popup is clearly a launch pad for some extraordinary talents."
Matthew Parris - (taken from) My Week, The Times -
'I got back to London just in time on Tuesday for a performance by Pop-up Opera at a Highgate pub called The Bull. Dazed from all the driving, had I not been the guest of friends I might have opted instead for an early night. I'm so glad I didn't. Within minutes, along with the rest of a small audience crammed into an upstairs room in the pub, I was happy and alive again, laughing at an hilarious production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore and overwhelmed by the power and beauty of the music.
This tiny company of young singers and musicians, few of them over 30, tired (I suppose) of hanging around opera-house doors in hopes of a career break, have hit the road with little more than a car-full of props and equipment, an electric piano - and an arsenal of talent. The whole production, brilliantly improvised to suit the room, felt like a two-hour explosion of beautiful music, top-class singing, and exceptional acting.
I honestly cannot imagine anyone, of any age or class or tastes, who would have been bored or unmoved. Such small-scale stuff may never get a full Times review, so let me say that Clementine Lovell was utterly beguiling as Adina - and you could watch her expressive coquetry at a range of 5ft. Her hang-dog, kitchen-boy worshipper, the tenor Cliff Zammit-Stevens, blew us away with Nemorino's duets and arias; Penelope Manser was deftly adorable as the waitress, Gianetta; and Ricardo Panela and Tom Kennedy - a travelling salesman and a quack doctor - turned comedy caddishness into astonishing music.
Orchestra? Musical director? Conductor? All one man. Looking about 19, James Henshaw on the electric piano was poised on a merry cusp between cinema accompanist and opera-house maestro.
If Pop-up pop up anywhere near you, pop in. you'll stay to cheer.'
Margaret Davies - Opera Magazine, Aug 2012
Pop-Up Opera at St Mary's Church, Islington, June 6
The peripatetic Pop-up Opera, which is about bringing opera to new places and new audiences, ended its spring tour across southern England with a single performance of L'elisir d'amore at St Mary's Church, Islington, as part of Soul in the City, a neighbourhood festival. Darren Royston's pacy, present-day setting of Donizetti's romantic comedy had already been seen in a variety of venues including farms, pubs, a barn and an arts centre and it fitted slickly into the church's spacious confines, using the central aisle for the singers' entrances and exits and to draw the audience into the opera proper as well as involving them in the ad-libbed prologues invented by the producer. It was my first experience of being given steel kitchenware to clatter before the pianist and musical director James Henshaw took charge of the performance, and his skilful adaptation of Donizetti's score kept the action briskly on the move.
With the Cafe d'Amore as the focal point of village life, and Adina as the proprietor, Nemorino the kitchen boy, Giannetta the waitress, and Belcore a smooth-talking sales rep, the characters were more closely connected than by tradition - Adina and Giannetta particularly so - and their emotions more tautly involved. As the self-possessed Adina, Clementine Lovell used her clear, well-focused soprano to project the words meaningfully and she subtly conveyed the character's developing awareness of and emotional attachment to Nemorino. The Maltese tenor Cliff Zammit Stevens drew sympathy for Nemorino's unhappiness and his ardent, full-toned singing did justice to Donizetti's music. Still a student at the RCM, he already shows exceptional promise. Alexander Learmonth sang firmly as the smooth-tongued, calculating Belcore, who ended up washing the dishes; Tom Kennedy as the persuasive Dulcamara remained irrepressible to the end. Penelope Manser sang sweetly and filled out her role as a playfully devoted giannetta. Harry Percival supplied the brief but adequate English surtitles.
'...a performance of Don Pasquale that fulfilled its aim of making opera enjoyable and inviting, without diminishing the quality of the music. On a minuscule stage furnished with little more than a table and chairs, the director Darren Royston reduced the story of Donizetti's opera to its bare bones without sacrificing any of its musical gems and filled in several linking cameo roles-just falling short of the outrageous-to embellish the updated action, tide over a hitch in the titles, and insert a few entertaining explanations to the uninitiated.
His cast of four, all well established in the first decade of their careers, embraced as many different nationalities and was headed by Clementine Lovell (also the founder of the company) as a stylish Norina, who, projecting the Italian words in a vibrant soprano, offered a sharp characterization of the wilful heroine. The Colombian-born tenor Juan Carlos Echeverry achieved a passably Italianate style in a heartfelt account of Ernesto's mournful 'Cerchero lontana terra', and entered as if on horseback, with the director as the rear end, for his caressing, bel canto serenade. The scheming Dr Malatesta was roundly portrayed and sung by the personable Portuguese baritone Ricardo Panela; the Spanish bass-baritone Raul Baglietto offered well-nourished singing in his touching portrayal of the ill-used Don Pasquale; and they teamed up to rousing effect in their patter duet. The musical director Chris Huntley supplied the crisply supportive piano accompaniment.'
Opera Magazine Oct 2011
'Certainly, to go to The Royal Opera House or Glyndebourne, you won't see much change from £150 and more whereas Pop-up is charging a tenth of that. For this, you must forego the plush seats, an orchestra and a (sometimes) excellent acoustic, but what you do get is some first-rate singing to a well-played piano reduction, simple but well-conceived scenery and costumes and acting which would compare favourably with that in any of the great opera houses... Playing to a packed house, the cosmopolitan cast mimed to the overture which made up for the lack of orchestra. Indeed, the witty solution was to evoke the days of the silent movie by means of framed captions projected on to a screen while the cast recreated the jerky movements of the early days of cinema. Translation of the flawless Italian in which the opera sung was projected on to the screen to keep the audience abreast of the plot. Ideas verging on the absurd, which could have flopped, such as the bubbles blown as confetti at the eventual wedding of the young lovers, worked well thanks to the pace and humour which kept the audience entranced throughout' - the Ross Gazette
'We had tremendous fun seeing last night's performance of "Don Pasquale" at the Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight and were absolutely charmed and delighted by your witty and spirited interpretation! Great use of props and 'silent movie' elements combined with wonderful singing - we did not quite know what to expect and found you performance to be a real treat; 'Comedia' in its best sense...'
J Henderson, Isle of Wight
'I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the cast and crew of Pop-Up Opera for giving my two daughters the most amazing first experience of Opera... the most perfect introduction to opera possible for a 4 and 6 yr old. They got to say a quick hello to the wonderful cast just before they went on and sat riveted, transfixed and smiling and clapping their way through the performance. They loved it! On the way home they were so full of excitement about when they could go and see Opera again, and asking us to tell them stories of other operas, that you simply have to come back next year, and every year thereafter to continue to fuel their operatic passion into adulthood.'
C Budden, Isle of Wight
'Just to say how much Chris and I loved the performance on Sunday. It was beautiful, uplifting, wonderfully funny and very entertaining. I was not previously an opera lover but think I am now a convert - though maybe particularly to operas in barns etc. I think the setting really brought it to life. It must have been extremely hard work for all of you, but thank you all very much, it has enriched my life, hope it does so for others.'
T Stockdale, Herefordshire
'It was..fab-u-lous - everyone was absolutely brilliant, including of course the pianist hiding away behind the pillars plugging away at such a ridiculous amount of notes - how many fingers does he have?! If last night's performance was anything to go by Pop-up Opera looks like being a hugely successful venture.'
D Hollinghurst, Herefordshire
'VERY good event on Saturday night..Singing sublime, and the acoustics were marvellous..'
It was beautifully sung
It was wonderfully acted
It was witty
It was topical
It was racy
It was exciting
It was dynamic
It was played to perfection
It was dynamically directed
It was Pop-up Opera's first ever performance
It was worth of a standing ovation
... and it had a standing ovation
Many thanks to all who made the event possible but particularly to Clementine, Raul, Jual Carlos, Ricardo, Darren, Chris and Harry for bring your immense talents to Pembridge Church.
Pembridge Church, Herefordshire
Harvs and Dale, Shoreham
Just to say how much I enjoyed the performance yesterday on board The Verda in Shoreham. I can honestly say it was one of the most pleasurable musical events I have ever attended.Good luck with this brilliant concept and thanks again for a memorable evenings entertainment'
C Roberts, Shoreham
'To Clementine and all members of the production, a big thankyou for our first ever OPERA ,we were spellbound ,your performance was so enjoyable, to be so close and feel the emotions, it was an amazing experience ,how you managed in such a small space ,maybe that made it all the more enjoyable. What a wonderfull way to spend a Sunday evening , must see your next production and cannot wait to see more, THANKYOU!!'
M Smith, Shoreham
'As you may know I'm not an opera fan, and fell asleep [at] Madam Butterfly at Covent Garden. But that all changed this afternoon when we went to see a performance of Don Pasquale on Houseboat Verda. We were not disappointed. The Popup opera company seem to specialise in small, unusual venues. The top deck of the houseboat seated about 70 people and all the seats were taken. It was exhilarating, fresh, intimate and although in italian, it had enough amusing english subtitles, up to the minute english props, expressive acting, and an english precis in the program to make it understandable. It was well worth £15/ticket. I wish we'd asked more of our friends..'
M Wooldridge, Shoreham