Rita ★★★ Charing Cross Theatre | August 7 - 20, 2022

Donizetti's one-act opéra comique was never performed in his lifetime, and only relatively recently, has it become one of his most frequently performed works. Consisting of eight musical numbers linked by spoken dialogue, the slight story is the tale of Rita (Laura Lolita Perešivana) who has been abused by her late husband Gasparo (Phil Wilcox) and who then inflicts the same treatment on her second spouse, Beppe (Brenton Spiteri). When it turns out that Gasparo is not dead and when he reappears on the scene, the fun comes from watching both men strive to escape their ties to the volatile Rita. The humour is broad and the subject of spousal abuse is a tricky one, but the singing and Donizetti's music carry the day. Perešivana is a vivacious and somewhat frightening Rita and her soprano voice lights up the stage. Spiteri is thoroughly engaging as the beleaguered Beppe, and throughout he brings a strong tenor voice to his role. Wilcox as the pompous and guileful Gasparo displays great comic timing and successfully carries off a part that could be problematic. The Faust Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Mark Austin does a fine job with the musical numbers, providing great support to the singers. For us, the one question about the piece was its set: there seemed to be a great deal of unnecessary moving about of three unnecessary doors. Rita is certainly not Lucia di Lammermoor, but this charming production of Donizetti's comic bagatelle is well worth checking out.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.

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