Image: Gabriele Stravinskaite

“Utterly unmissable”: review of Opera Warwick’s ‘La Vie Parisienne’

Opera Warwick treats us to yet another highly entertaining show this weekend as they present Jacques Offenbach’s operatic comedy La Vie Parisienne, translated from the original French by Richard Traubner. From the moment the curtain rises on the enormously talented ensemble, bustling through a Parisian train station, it is immediately evident that the entire show will be a joy to behold. The timeless humour of La Vie Parisienne, a tale first told in the 1860s, combined with a myriad of impressive performances from the cast, is an excellent production that has the contemporary audience in fits of laughter throughout.

La Vie Parisienne tells the story of two men, Gardefeu and Bobinet, who compete with one another over their romantic pursuits. When the Baron and Baroness Gondremarck arrive in Paris, they hatch a plan to distract the Baron and seduce the Baroness, and hilarity ensues. Over the course of the show, the two men orchestrate extravagant parties, enlisting the help of their friends and servants to pull off their elaborate schemes.

It is immediately evident that the entire show will be a joy to behold

It is a genuinely funny story and is thoroughly entertaining even for an audience member with no prior knowledge of opera as an art form. The story is relatively simple, and very easy to follow, largely as a result of the simple set pieces, which are moved around effectively to suggest new locations. Additionally, the dialogue is no less engaging or professional than the musical numbers and, as a result of this, it is easy to keep track of the continued mistaken identities and dastardly plots, even when the characters on the stage remain perplexed.

Under the excellent direction of Aphra Hiscock, the cast of La Vie Parisienne work together cohesively, and every member works hard throughout to maintain the fun and light-hearted atmosphere demanded by the story. The ensemble are particularly notable, as the performers rush around in various costumes to play different characters at different points in the show. In this manner, La Vie Parisienne succeeds in creating magnificent party scenes with a relatively small ensemble. The comedic performances of the entire cast are of a very high quality and remain entertaining throughout, but the funniest element of the show is the friendship between Gardefeu (Charlie Cooper) and Bobinet (Dominic Sterland). From the moment this pair step onto the stage in the opening scene of the show, their witty antics and schemes were fomenting ripples of laughter, and as the layers of lies and deception build up, they only became more engaging.

Every member works hard throughout to maintain the fun and light-hearted atmosphere demanded by the story

Of course, the star of the show is the music itself. Every vocal performance was exceedingly skilful, whilst at the same time maintaining the humorous undertones of the story. Amongst the most amusing musical performances is the number in which Bobinet and his servants attempt to get the Baron Gondremarck drunk, which showcased the extensive talent of the entire ensemble. Also worth mentioning is the witty number in which the ensemble try to trick the Baron into thinking that they are members of high society, performed excellently by Naomi Awre as the tailor Gabrielle. In addition to this, each song is accompanied by a highly impressive orchestra, who contributed as much to the gorgeous Parisian atmosphere as the actors themselves.

Overall, La Vie Parisienne is a wonderful production featuring a highly talented cast of actors and musicians alike. The story itself is light-hearted and fun and keeps the audience thoroughly entertained, and the comedic performances render it utterly unmissable.

La Vie Parisienne is at Warwick Arts Centre Thursday 7 – Saturday 9 February. Tickets are available here

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