Opera review: The Secret Marriage, Hampstead Garden Opera, Jacksons Lane Theatre


HGO presents , THE SECRET MARRIAGE. - Credit: Archant

Comic opera offers a fun night out at Highgate venue


HGO presents , THE SECRET MARRIAGE. - Credit: Archant

Jackson’s Lane is now well established as the home of HGO: it lends itself to ambitious stagings (Rufus Martin’s elegant set was no exception) and the elevated gallery space for the orchestra adds much atmosphere.

This confident and frothy performance of Cimarosa’s typically Neapolitan opera buffa reflected Garden Opera’s sense of ease and ownership. Secret Marriage has only half a dozen voices who, over 140 minutes work hard to create and maintain the atmosphere of operatic farce.

True to form there’s a contrived plot which sees Geronimo wanting to marry one of his two daughters (Elisetta) into the aristocracy.

But Count Robinson fancies the wrong daughter (Carolina) who is secretly married to her dad’s manservant (Paulino).

For added complication the vampish widow and auntie Fidalma lives with them. Pay attention.

Thanks to a wonderfully funny English translation from the original Italian, all is perfectly clear.

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At the heart of the farce is the inhibition of Carolina (sung beautifully with comic intuition by Emily Wenman) and Paolina (Ross Wilson) to be able to admit to their marriage.

She sings of the tragedy “... when true love can’t be confessed.” The arrival of the foppish Count Robinson (the magnificent presence and voice of Thomas Coltman) causes a rift with her sister (the sparkling and determined Rachel Dukett).

So, with the fantastic auntie “I am wealthy but my body needs employment” (the sexy, arched eye-browed Annie Reilly), and the rather pathetic social climber Geronimo (sung well by Javier Vilarino) she plots to send sis to a convent.

Director Sinead O’Neill deserves much credit for getting her team to put in so much creativity and love - and get so much fun and enjoyment out. The audience clearly loved it. A common complaint of Italian comic opera is the amount of needless repetition that serves neight plot nor emotional development. Her job would have been easier if Cimarosa had not padded his opera beyond the two hour mark. An excellent and fun night out.

David Winskill