I should have seen this quite a few nights before Christmas but the opening was delayed – always a bad sign (qv The Drowned Man). I booked tickets for a play, only to find they’d added some poor songs and a dreadful dance to what, underneath, could have been a good play. The acting is excellent, even though two of the characters are clichés (one even accuses the other of being a cartoon). The basic premise is clever – has an elf fallen through the ceiling or is he just a burglar dressed as an elf? Along the way comes the inevitable self revelation and an interesting twist on the lives of the elves; there is even a very clever take on the “I believe in fairies” chant from Peter Pan. Unfortunately, the good aspects only make the worst parts – some of the dialogue, the singing and the terrible dance – even more annoying.
Maybe I do like Puccini after all! I certainly enjoyed this very small scale production (five singers, three musicians) more than the might of the ENO. I hadn’t expected to – I saw the OperaUpClose version of Britten’s Turn of the Screw which was terrific but that was a chamber opera to start with and only had five characters anyway. In the event, this was terrific. The updated libretto placed it in East Germany shortly before the collapse of Honecker’s government which suited the plot well. The good value programme (£3) included the full English libretto but every word was clear (no need for surtitles here). Grab a ticket while you can – it finishes this Sunday. My only complaint is that the programme lists both casts, two singers per role, so it wasn’t clear which singers I saw and I can’t credit them – Scarpia was particularly excellent.