Review: Opera North’s Little Greats

SMALL WONDERS: Opera North's new season The Little Greats, at Leeds Grand Theatre.
SMALL WONDERS: Opera North's new season The Little Greats, at Leeds Grand Theatre.
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Leeds Grand Theatre

“I thought for one dreadful moment it was all going to be in English,” one listener whispered. It was the opening moment of I Pagliacci and Opera North’s season of Little Greats. But he needn’t have worried. It was a stroke of genius – to begin the play within a play with Tonio (Richard Burkhard) singing in English, with impeccably clear diction, and then go straight into the original Italian for the rest of the action.

If I Pagliacci is verismo, Ravel’s L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges is magical realism – a naughty child who has a tantrum and wrecks his room, is punished by objects from it (and the garden) that come to life. This is an obvious opportunity for an imaginative production, and it was taken up spectacularly with hilarious costumes and attention-grabbing choreography. The teapot with the huge, suggestive spout between his legs is always good for a laugh, but the sheer variety of design was fascinating. The child, portrayed superbly by Wallis Giunta, repents and finally calls out, ‘maman.’ It’s highly amusing, but somehow intensely moving too.