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A Believable Mixture

Jonathan Dove's opera
'The Adventures of Pinocchio'


As the audience takes its seats for The Adventures of Pinocchio it is greeted by a drop-curtain designed by Fintain O'Connor, the six-year-old son of the show's designer, Francis O'Connor. It takes us immediately into the world of Jonathan Dove's heart-warming new opera.

Commissioned jointly by Opera North and Sadler's Wells, it could be just the thing for introducing young children (though probably not under eights) to the joys not just of opera but of theatre generally. There's plenty for adults to enjoy, too -- in the music, in Alasdair Middleton's witty libretto, and in some eye-popping visual effects.

L'enfant et les sortilèges and The cunning little vixen hover like benevolent godparents over the whole production, and Dove's wonderfully inventive score occasionally reveals further debts to John Adams, and even, once or twice, Stephen Sondheim. But, far from sounding derivative, it shows his remarkable ability to blend disparate influences into his own distinctive voice.

It's a big show at nearly three hours including interval, yet at the performance I attended (Theatre Royal, Nottingham, UK, 9 February 2008) even the youngsters showed no signs of flagging interest. While the story's episodic nature is an asset in this respect it could also have been a liability, but Dove holds it all together with his melodically strong and expertly coloured score, and the pace never falters. The build-up to the thrilling choral scene that ends Act 1, as Pinocchio swims out to sea to try to rescue his father, is particularly impressive.

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Copyright © 18 February 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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