The Enchanted Pig – opera in two acts to a libretto by Alasdair Middleton
King Hildebrand / The North Wind ‒ Jo Servi
Mab / Adelaide ‒ Kate Nelson
Dot / Day ‒ Michelle Cornelius
Flora ‒ Karina Lucas
The Book of Fate / Mrs North Wind / Old Woman ‒ Beverley Klein
King of the West / The Sun ‒ Terel Nugent
King of the East / The Moon ‒ Tom Solomon
The Pig ‒ Simon Wilding
John Fulljames ‒ Director
Tim Murray ‒ Conductor
Dick Bird ‒ Designs
Bruno Poet ‒ Lighting design
Philippe Girardeau ‒ Movement
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 12 December, 2009
Venue: Linbury Studio Theatre at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
First performed to great acclaim at the Young Vic three years ago, Jonathan Dove’s charming opera makes a welcome return to the London stage in the intimate setting of the underground Linbury Studio Theatre.
“The Enchanted Pig” draws on Romanian and Norwegian folk-tales although comparisons can be made with “Beauty and the Beast”. A King goes off to war with instructions that his three daughters can go anywhere in the castle except a locked room. Naturally they break into the room where they read from the Book of Fate that the two eldest will marry kings. The third and youngest, Flora, is fated to marry a pig. After being dragged kicking and screaming to the alter and spending her first night rolling around in the mud, Flora finds herself falling for her new husband. The strength of her love partially breaks the spell on him and at night he’s transformed into a handsome prince. But, oh dear, she’s conned into losing him when a villainous Old Woman persuades her to tie him to the bed with red string while he sleeps which, she says, will break the curse. Unfortunately the Prince (Pig) awakes and declares that the bond of trust with Flora is broken. He’s kidnapped by the Old Woman who wants him to wed her daughter, a hilariously trashy wannabe while poor Flora is condemned to walk the earth wearing out three pairs of iron shoes in the process! On her travels Flora meets several couples in varying states of wedded bliss. The funniest, Mr and Mrs North Wind, argue all the time and sing about each other’s disgusting habits but maintain “We’re in love, alright.” And of course True Love prevails in the end for Flora and the Prince.
Nothing startlingly original, but when every element falls into place as it does here, then something special is created. Jonathan Dove’s score is wildly eclectic and hugely enjoyable. Drawing on influences as diverse as Weill, Kander & Ebb, and Bartók, it succeeds in holding an audience without ever resorting to cliché or facile gestures.
The main success of Alastair Middleton’s libretto lies with its ability to maintain a clear narrative focus with bitingly sharp observations on the nature of love in all its different forms. Occasionally the endlessly clever rhyming couplets prove a touch irritating but it’s a minor criticism. Dick Bird’s tacky, trashy designs (cartoon-like costumes, The Simpsons-like hairstyles) are witty and fun.
Director John Fulljames keeps the action flowing at a breathless pace but there’s plenty of time for reflection, notably in the beautiful lyrical aria of The Moon in Act Two. The cast is uniformly excellent. With the exception of the heroine Flora (a suitably solid and firm of tone Karina Lucas) and the Pig (a strongly sung but not always clearly enunciated Simon Wilding) all the singers perform a variety of roles with terrific aplomb with Beverley Klein as a splendidly evil Old Woman the pick of the bunch. Tim Murray and his six musicians push the music along with gusto. This is superb entertainment for a children and adults alike.
- Performances until 2 January 2010
- Box office: 020 7304 4000
- Royal Opera