“Marriage is bliss…”
An entertaining opera about marital strife, Rita tells the story of a married couple, Rita (Laura Lolita Perešivana) and Beppe (Brenton Spiteri) who appear to be in marital bliss while running a hotel together. Unfortunately for Rita, a spanner in the works is thrown at her when her believed-to-be-dead husband, Gasparo (Phil Wilcox) finds himself in the couple’s hotel. For both Rita’s and Gasparo, this causes overwhelming denial and confusion and makes for a comedic operatic interaction. Needless to say, a love triangle ensues, but not the most typical to be seen on stage!
Both Beppe and Gasparo are present when the audience arrive. The set is minimal but intriguing; displaying three doors which become a key element of the show, a single table and two chairs. The show opens and an electronic screen, covering the talented Faust Chamber Orchestra who are raised on stage, displays cinematic opening credits. The screen then changes to a countryside image which sets the scene. However, it is not utilised any further and adds little.
Rita makes her grand entrance in the opening number, propelling herself from the centre door. Perešivana immediately captivates the audience with her expressive movements, distinct facial expressions and of course, her flawless operatic singing voice. All the characters break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience at various points in the show. In Rita’s opening, she shares that she was hit by her first husband, Gasparo, and through fear of it happening again with Beppe, she now takes control in their relationship and will use violence.
Spiteri and Wilcox had indisputable chemistry during their scenes together, particularly their fighting scene, and provoked many laughs from the audience. The casting was perfect, each actor fully embodying their character, making the storytelling even more believable. A distinctive flare was using beats for comedic value, such as picking up and putting down a suitcase, which added to the cartoon-like vibe of the show.
The cast were faultless in their performances. The duet and trio harmonies were undeniable, with every single note being hit. Their voices blended seamlessly together, and it was a real pleasure to listen to. A particular highlight was the trio singing songs in the round, an effective way to present the feelings and positions of the characters.
By exploring gender stereotypes and the patriarchy embedded in the family home, Rita is immediately thought-provoking, especially when it first premiered in 1860. The composer, Gaetano Donizetti, strikes a balance between making light of marital issues and violence in the home and acknowledging the situation. Often the lyrics do not reflect the comedy on stage, a clever way to depict that what happens behind closed doors in the home is easily concealed in daily life. After the chaos, confusion and comedy, there is a particularly heart-warming moral message that “love is respect”. This leaves the audience feeling contented at the show’s conclusion and resolution of the issues.
Rita is currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 20th August 2022. Tickets can be purchased from https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/rita
Reviewer: Maani Way
Reviewed: 10th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★