The Secret Marriage
Pop-Up Opera’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage)
by Domenico Cimarosa
at Christchurch C of E Church, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
“...a wonderful and safe introduction to opera”
The audience came pre-prepared. Most had had picnics beforehand in the adjoining church hall, as though it were a normal Saturday event.
The bubbly was popping, the hubbub quite raucous. Yet, next door, the church sat quiet and dignified, politely waiting. At the appointed time, the crowds surged in and an excited anticipation filled the air.
[The aisle leading to the performance space, with surtitle screen above it]
In front of the altar, alongside four coloured chairs and minimal props, Berrack Dyer sat at the piano and off we went. She played magnificently throughout, leading the ensemble through two hours of organised operatic anarchy.
Cimarosa's The Secret Marriage is rarely performed - a hidden gem, perhaps. Although it has a few plot-line flaws and sags in the middle of the second act, it is basically the farcical story of Paulino having secretly married his employer’s youngest daughter, Carolina. Both are superbly played and sung by Peter Kirk and Chiara Vinci respectively.
[Chiari Vinci and Peter Kirk, in rehearsal]
Before they can come clean, British Count Robinson enters, in cycling helmet (didn’t get that reference!) and union jack waistcoat. Typically eccentric, he’s sniffing after Elisetta’s, the elder sister dowry, but once he arrives, as one would expect, he shuns her, falling head over heels for Carolina. David Mitchell look-a-like Matthew Palmer plays the Count with wonderful comedic timing. Heather Caddick’s Elisetta is dowdy and prim to perfection.
There is a wonderful scene where Elisetta has a coming-of-age chat with her bumptious aunt Fidalma, played by Helen Stanley. The Joy of Sex appears and Elisetta is appalled (at first). Fidalma’s secret is her lust for Paulino.
Trying to run the madcap household is the father figure, Geronimo, played by a booming and bewildered Peter Willcock.
The amplified keyboard was marvellously balanced to work with the six voices of the performers, who were all strong and clear up and down the aisles, in and around the very appreciative audience.
Yet they were all purposefully upstaged by the surtitles (written by Harry Percival) that allow the non-Italians to follow the action. Using a variety of pictures, cartoons and witty captions, we had a mixture of topical images (Trump, Brexit, Ronaldo) and very funny statements. This eighth member of the company could so easily steal the show, but for me, Chiari Vinci’s acting, singing and sheer presence, shone the brightest.
Pop-Up Opera tour to a wide variety of venues, but churches must appeal. The architecture gives the performances so much depth and potential. Do check out the company's website for the tour’s stopping points - a fun evening for all the family and a wonderful and safe introduction to opera.
Running time 2 hours 10 minutes, plus a 30-minute interval
Director Max Hoehn
Producers Fiona Johnston and Clementine Lovell
Musical Director Berrak Dyer
Rehearsal Photographer Lidia Crisafulli