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Operation Adelmo
Published on Friday, 12 August 2011

3 stars

New Town Theatre (venue website)
4-15, 17-28 Aug, 5:30pm-6:45pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

Operation Adelmo stars the self-styled 'clown prince of opera', Adelmo Guidarelli. Billed as a solo show, it would be remiss not to mention his talented accompanist at the piano and his long-suffering glamorous assistant. And although opera is the main focus of the show, there's a variety of other genres thrown in; during the course of the hour Adelmo will impersonate Elvis, play the banjo, and even perform a bit of magic.

Certainly there is an air of Victor Borge, the ubiquitous comparative device of any comic classical musician. However, what made Borge such a big hit was that if you strip away the music, you still had a fine stand up comedian. Sadly, many segues and one-liners in Operation Adelmo, although funny on paper, are lost in the delivery.

The show also loses something in cultural translation when coming over the Atlantic. Material that may work for American audiences just don't work that well over here, like the pitch about a baseball opera. Similarly, in the one number clearly aimed at a Scottish audience – an American version of Robert Burns' Address to a Haggis – Adelmo unfortunately picks spam as his substitute, which just made me wonder when he was going to start singing Monty Python. Spoiler: he doesn't.

Still, there are many things to like about the show, especially when Adelmo's fine classically-trained baritone is unleashed upon a song that is completely inappropriate for an operatic treatment (I won't give it away, since it is perhaps the highlight of the show). But therein lies the biggest obstacle for Operation Adelmo. In opera, most of the big, famous arias go to the soprano or tenor, not the baritone. Borge had a large repertoire of famous piano music to send up. Adelmo doesn't.

All this means that, once the few big, famous baritone arias are covered, there's still a lot of the hour to fill. Maybe there should have been more pop songs sung in an operatic style, but instead there's a hit-and-miss menagerie of things: bluegrass, puppets and a magic trick (which may lead me to a repeat viewing, if only to see whether the ending changes from night to night). It is this uneven approach that leaves the show overall feeling disconnected, and lacking a natural flow.

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