Opera Locos is a complete hit

Words by Bengi-Sue Sirin.

Since 1991, the Spanish comedy and physical theatre company Yllana have delighted audiences in over 48 countries. And last week they came to London’s Peacock Theatre, with a show that enjoyed great success at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. Opera Locos; the sort of show title that guarantees a fun evening. And it certainly didn’t disappoint!

Described as ‘a spectacular love story filled with colourful characters,’ the show pings from vignette to vignette via tunes both operatic and poperatic. Bringing the jukebox opera to life are a cast of five brilliant performers each playing a fully padded out madcap character. There is the past-his-prime Alfredo (portrayed by the marvellous Jesús Álvarez), striving for two highs: the love of María (María Rey-Joly) and the perfect rendition of Nessun Dorma. There is the pop-loving Willy Wonka/Prince-esque Franelli (Michael Kone) enacting the trope of the hopeless suitor with the rather more traditional and macho Enrique (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos). And finally there is Carmen (Mayca Teba), a raucous hybrid of Moulin Rouge girl and Madrid movida. 

From the highbrow operatic heights of Toreador, La Traviata and Verdi’s Rigoletto to the popular (yet in my opinion equally as operatic) musical realms of Mika’s Grace Kelly and Sinatra’s My Way, The Opera Locos doesn’t discriminate. It is as postmodern as an ice cream van playing classical musical, serving up the same gelato joy by repurposing opera with a dash of sprinkles. 

From a movement perspective, the drama of opera has such brimming potential for physical comedy. The [admittedly few] traditional operas that I’ve seen utilise this to an extent, but taking advantage of these potentials is Yllana’s wheelhouse. Just a couple of examples to illustrate my point… Within one short frame we see Maria go from adoring [of Alfredo], to the shock of discovering his stash of empty booze bottles and worse still a pair of fanmail pants, to the melodrama of pointing a gun at him! How operatic. Secondly, Franelli makes use of a marvellous falsetto phrase of opera to accompany himself… in the shower! How relatable. The final flourish of music is marked by Franelli making a trumpeting mouth movement, dispelling none other than a torrent of…. Mouthwash! Again and again, Opera Locos drew from our audience mouths torrents of laughter, jajajajajajajaja’s all round.

In true postmodern style the fourth wall was never going to be left intact. Carmen preyed upon a very game front-row audience member, serenading him all the way up onto the stage. And we were invited to sing operatic phrases in a right-half versus left-half competition. Many around me were familiar with every single reference, but many (myself included) were not – and the beauty is that it didn’t matter. The point is nothing but joy and sprinkles – just like an ice cream van.

I am sure that many operagoers would look down their noses at this madcap medley of a show, but that is their loss. Many too would love it. The lady next to me had a Royal Opera House members’ card in her wallet, and was laughing just as hard as me! In my attempts to summarise my feelings about The Opera Locos, the words that push their way to the forefront of my mind are actually not mine – they are Sylvia Plaths. As in her marvellous poem ‘You’re,’ Opera Locos are ‘clownlike, happiest on [their] hands/ Feet to the stars….’ and  ‘Jumpy as a Mexican bean.’ It is opera and it is loco in just simply the best possible way!