Orpheus in the Underworld (Scottish Opera) - Young Vic Maria, 30 November 2011
The lips were unlacquered and the bewbage was seasonally swathed, but there was no disguising that towering stack of raven curls. Opera-loving Nancy Dell'Olio is just one of the new BFFs Rory Bremner has picked up from his short-lived stint on Strictly Come Dancing. Holly Valance and Anita Dobson (attached as ever to the legendary Brian May) also found time to drop in on the London opening of Scottish Opera's Orpheus in the Underworld, for which Bremner has created a new translation.
And appropriately enough - because Bremner's translation (adaptation, to be more accurate), updates Offenbach's operetta from ancient Greece to the media-driven celebrity culture of today.
The targets are broad and the humour often crude. If you're the sort of person who snickers when Michel Roux Jr talks about boning a chicken on Masterchef (raises hand sheepishly) then you will gasp at Bremner's unparalleled wit; if not, the night may pass slowly.
Any subtlety (and granted, there's not much) in Bremner's work is flattened into the ground by the production though. Faced with what seems like more dialogue than music, director Oliver Mears opts for the sort of frantically-paced overblown mugging last seen on the Benny Hill Show circa 1971. It soon gets overbearing in the intimacy of the Young Vic's Maria studio. The scene where Jupiter (the stoutly-built Brendan Collins) disguises himself as a fly to seduce Eurydice is the best respite.
It's a shame because the singing is uniformly fine, with Brendan Collins, Jane Harrington (Eurydice) and Daire Halpin (Diana) standouts. There are no surtitles but every word is crystal-clear (more of a novelty than it should be). But while I don't wish to criticise Ruth Wilkinson, who played beautifully, the pub opera-style upright piano accompaniment exposes a certain monotony in Offenbach's melodising.
production photos: Scottish Opera