Miss Fortune, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012

The title of this opera is a play on words, the eponymous character being the daughter of Lord and Lady Fortune, whose riches have melted away, and after the chorus sings, “We think you should go to gaol”, they take off.

All images by Bill Cooper

Miss Fortune stays behind singing that, “I won’t scuttle away … I’m going to live in the real world”. And so she does, but the forces of chaos, represented by break-dancers, lead her through a course of ill-luck before she wins the lottery. Judith Weir wrote both music and libretto, reflecting the banalities of a dull life in expressions such as, “I can’t go on like this. In the end we’ll all be dead”.

In the end the opera finished rather suddenly, and the Soul Mavericks break-dancers came on to thunderous applause. They were super. The whole production by Chinese opera expert Chen Shi-Zheng was delightfully colourful with bold set designs by Tom Pye, costumes by Han Feng, and excellent lighting by Scott Zielinski. As a co-production with the Bregenz festival it was first shown in July 2011, and the cast remained the same for this UK premiere.

Break-dancers

Emma Bell sang beautifully in the title role, and Jacques Imbrailo was wonderful in the relatively small role of Simon, the attractive man she leaves with at the end. Noah Stewart was very fine in the role of Hassan, the owner of a Kebab shop whose business is destroyed by the break-dancers, Andrew Watts sang the counter-tenor role in the rather shadowy character of fate, and Anne-Marie Owens sang well as Donna the owner of a Laundromat.

A mixture of soap opera and fairy tale, the story lacks narrative drive, and the clouds of mellifluous music lack a cutting edge. The saving grace is the very effective staging, with Paul Daniel in the orchestra pit doing his best to inject life into an otherwise unimpassioned score.

Performances continue until March 28 — for details click here.

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