Review-Duetto-Aurora Theatre


By: Olivia Rosenman

Opera is hilarious. This is something I had not realised before I saw Duetto. This is probably something to do with the fact the only operas I have ever seen have been expensive productions in posh settings, involving opera singers who take themselves very seriously. Not that that is bad. I’m a big fan of a night at the opera (every once in a while), but perhaps the spectacle of it all can distract from the story.

Duetto takes opera, chews it up a little, adjusts the complex seasoning and turns it into something you can digest on a Wednesday night after a long day at work. Delightful.

Nicole Garbellini directs two short, comic operas Italian and set in Hong Kong. One is a story of love and cunning, the other of family, greed, deception and death, with a bit of love at the end. The playwright, Peter Gordon, has nicely adapted the stories. He manages to set it unmistakeably in time and place while still giving a nod to the original libretto. He successfully recreates repetition of arias, turning it into something quite comical. “You have the imagination of a dumpling”  is a line that I will always remember; I plan to use it as an insult myself. Shakespeare, the king of insults, could never have come up with that one.

A genial cast played their characters well without taking themselves one bit too seriously. Toh Han Shih as Johnny Xi was an excellent protagonist. He plays a criminal of the highest moral standing and pulls it off! Jeremy Payne got the earnestness just right in his role as the lawyer. Susan Lavender acted the slightly crazy matriarch Rita without being slapsticky.  The way in which she spoke every second line in Italian and then in English was a nice touch but it was overdone and became frustrating.

The set was an appropriate mishmash of east meets west. I want to know where the set designer managed to find a copy of Playboy magazine from the 1970s!  

The second half of the show starts with an acoustic set from local band The Valentines. I’m a huge fan of live music at the theatre. It’s like being given a free cherry on top of your ice cream.

Duetto is a fun night out, and it’s also a nice way to be able to appreciate opera without having to get dressed up to the nines and sit through several hours of intense emotion and furore. Stories from centuries ago still have themes that resonate today and, more importantly, they can still make us laugh!

Duetto is playing at the Fringe Club through Saturday. For more information, click here!

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.1


  • David Janke
    27 June 2013

    Maybe the reviewer could have mentioned more about Maid Made Mistress, including Christine Jagalino and Neil Runcieman's fine performance.
    New actors also deserve a mention as much as the more seasoned ones.
  • Olivia
    05 July 2013

    See, it does happen in Hong Kong

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