Rossini’s Hidden Extras by Northern Ireland Opera delights audience

The ornate surroundings of the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough on the Antrim coast was the setting for some afternoon opera on Saturday.

Rossini’s Hidden Extras otherwise known as La Cambiale Di Matrimonio) was performed by Northern Ireland Opera as part of the Festival of Voice which took place in various venues throughout the Glenarm area. Hidden Extras is a one-act operatic farce written by Rossini when he was eighteen. It first came to the attention of audiences in 1810 when it was performed during the carnival season in Venice.

Although the events revolve around the well-rehearsed theme of love, the plot was updated to situate events around the world of business and commerce.

Tobias Mill receives a mail order for a bride from a business colleague named Slook. Seizing the opportunity to make some personal gain from the transaction he proposes that Slook marry his daughter Fanny. Unbeknownst to Tobias Mill, Fanny has already promised herself to the love of her life Eduardo. What ensues is a plot of comical disaster and chaos surrounding the conflicting interests of each of the characters.

Tobias Mill, performed ably by Brian McAlea is a straight down the line businessman, who conducts all the affairs of his life; even that of love and the future happiness of his daughter, as a business arrangement. Slook, performed with wit as dry as a bone by Malachy Frame, essentially the buyer, see’s no problems with returning the product he has purchased back to where he got it from in order to get his money back.

Stuck in the middle of this transaction, namely Fanny herself, is a young modern woman who can’t quite believe what is happening to her. Jessica Hackett brings a wit and wisdom and the attitude of the modern woman to the part making it one of the undoubted highlights of the production. At one stage Fanny, in a moment of frustration “flips the bird” to gasps of astonishment and nervous laughter among the audience. At first it seems questionable why this is needed, but upon reflection is entirely in keeping with the character and is part of the refreshing approach brought to the part.

In supporting roles Dawn Burns and Nathan Morrison who allowed the narrative to flow around them and stayed involved throughout even when not called upon. It can be often difficult when you are on stage but not participating as such not to look out of place, however, they managed to play a part throughout the piece, even acting within their characters when not required to have any singing parts.

On the whole, this was an entertaining production and brought a new and refreshing take on a piece which was first performed over two hundred years ago.

Hidden Extras by Northern Ireland Opera in conjunction with Tinderbox theatre company will be shown in a number of venues soon, check local listings for details.

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