You can make an omelette without breaking eggs
First a disclaimer – This is not “opera” as many would conceive; this is really a pantomime performed by talented young artists to high-class music. The staging is effectively whatever comes to hand, the music is provided via an electric keyboard, and the auditorium is whichever venue is available.
Conditioning on these facts, Le Docteur Miracle rather a fun evening out. This is opera on a shoestring, and therein lies its charm. The opera is too short to be dealt with by major opera companies (it’s only an hour and a half), and is clearly the product of youth – Bizet was 18 when he composed it. He must also have been very hungry at the time, as I know of no other opera that revolves around the creation of a (truly revolting) omelette – it contains, according to translation, acorns and Haribo.
Musically the piece is interesting as there are glimpses of musical things to come. Bizet gives a first outing of some fairly famous melodies now mostly associated with the Pearl Fishers and Carmen.
It will help you to have a smattering of French. Sung in the original language, surtitles are provided on a need-to-know basis, being translated both humorously and with a certain latitude with regard to the original text. This is a clever idea. Surtitles usually distract, and one doesn’t need to know every word that is being sung anyway. A combination of pictures, silent-film style announcements, and text messages serve the purpose well. One or two of the singers could work on their French accents, although I don’t suppose that will bother an English audience.
It’s terribly hard for young musicians to land big roles these days, and many will, rightly, take any opportunity to perform. Pop-Up Opera is a splendid platform for them to air their voices, and there are some fine voices on show here. The acting is good too, with a vivacious daughter, a thrice-married wife, and the eponymous, Clouseau-esque, Dr Miracle.
However a warning is in order – there is Audience Participation. You won’t be asked to come up on stage, but the space is so intimate that the singers inevitably require more room for the action. The audience is therefore enjoined to bash tambourines, crack imaginary eggs, and join in with the Toreador’s song. This last one may come as a surprise, but the cast gives hearty renditions of Carmen favourites for the encore.