Opera di Peroni, the Italian lager brand’s biannual event that takes a classic opera and reimagines it for a modern audience, was staged over three nights in London this week. Following last season’s al fresco airing of three classic arias (which we loved), for the autumn/winter season, producers GO OPERA and musician Kwes focused on Puccini’s La Rondine.
Helen and I went along to the VIP preview night on Wednesday (along with a bunch of celebs), held in Factory 7, the event space where Refinery29 held their so-called #bestnightever. It’s a very cool industrial-looking building, all concrete and exposed brick, but minimal heating meant this was definitely a coats on affair. Amid the hipster crowd swigging on Peroni and sampling the Italian aperitivo served by impeccably dressed waiters (the chicken liver pate on bruschetta was our favourite), the performers were already on the scene: tuxedo-clad men and women in lavish eveningwear mingled around a lounge set-up. Then the musicians – a four-piece ensemble – took their places and the show kicked off.
Telling the story of Magda, a singer/model/actress/designer superstar who mysteriously retreated from the limelight at the height of her fame, the action begins two years after her disappearance. At a party thrown by Magda, she is reunited with a boisterous trio of her former bandmates and agrees to an interview with up and coming fashion writer Ruggero Lastouc. Sparks fly between Magda and Ruggero, which doesn’t please Rambaldo, the secretive multi-millionaire Magda is supposed to be dating. How will Magda choose between the two? Will she emerge from her self-imposed exile? And what was she even doing for those two years? All will be revealed in three action-packed scenes that move throughout the venue.
Compared to the traditional story of La Rondine, (meaning ‘the swallow’) in which Magda is a courtesan and Ruggero a poet, this was quite the departure, especially with all the iPads, iPhones and video cameras the characters weilded – but that’s what I like about Opera di Peroni. GO OPERA aim to garner new audiences with their productions, and that’s exactly what this does. I’m pretty certain that few of the skinny jean-clad watchers on Wednesday would consider themselves opera fans before, and I know I wouldn’t, but this really piqued my interest. Previously, I thought all that operatic wailing was a bit annoying, but seen live it’s actually really impressive and the music was beautiful, especially with Kwes’ added digital flourishes. At times I have to admit I got a bit lost, but that’s probably my own fault for not standing where I go see the subtitles projected onto the wall. I’m definitely going to look into attending a full-scale opera, armed with the knowledge that it’s best to read up about the plot beforehand so you know what’s going on. If you’re intrigued too, I highly recommend Opera di Peroni as a great little taster session. The performance only lasted about an hour in total, it was really stylishly staged and you get beer and canapés thrown in with your £10 ticket – what’s not to like?