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Arlo McKinnon
Opera News, August 2009

Since its premiere in late 2007, Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio has received a great deal of public acclaim and much favorable attention in the press. Immediately following the premiere in Leeds, the opera went on a brief tour, including a stop at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, which is documented in the present DVD release from Opus Arte.

Composer Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton based their work on the original novel by Carlo Collodi. Written as a serial story for a children’s newspaper, Collodi’s Pinocchio is much darker and more rough-edged than the Disney feature-length cartoon adaptation with which most of the world is more familiar. Given the great variety of characters and incidents depicted, the opera requires a large cast and has a running time of two and a half hours. Great credit must be given to director Martin Duncan and designer Francis O’Connor for devising a set that is so versatile in depicting the many different scenes and locations.

Although the opera was not specifically intended for a child audience, Dove and Middleton wanted Pinocchio to have something in it for viewers of all ages. Thus, the musical language is tonally accessible, and the libretto has humor in it aimed at different age groups. The music reflects the influences of such composers as Janáček, Britten, Bernstein, Menotti, Glass and even Piazzolla, while the frequently rhymed text is unpretentious and appropriately plainspoken. Pinocchio will never be considered a groundbreaking work, but it is very well done and should continue to be quite popular with audiences.

The cast is uniformly strong. Victoria Simmonds, as Pinocchio, is an energetic presence on the stage for the entirety of the opera. Almost always required to sing music of pep, rebellion, remorse or glee, Simmonds is given a chance to show her gift for lyric singing early in the opera, as Pinocchio first ruminates on what it would be like to be a real boy. Jonathan Summers is a commanding presence as Geppetto, a role he sings with great warmth and ease. Mary Plazas faced an unusual challenge in the role of the Blue Fairy. The Fairy transforms from ghost to sister to mother to redeemer, each personification requiring different nuances of character, all the while retaining a basic identity. Plazas meets the challenge challenges, giving a compelling interpretation of this mysterious, ethereal character. Graeme Broadbent shows great vocal and gymnastic flexibility in his various assignments as Puppet Master, Ape-Judge, Big Green Fisherman and Ringmaster. He is at his finest as the Ringmaster, singing and dancing a vaudeville-like pitchman song to entice people in to the circus. Allan Clayton’s Lampwick, Pinocchio’s partner in truant adventure, is a fine portrayal, achieving genuine pathos in his death scene. Cast, chorus and orchestra are dynamically led by conductor David Parry.

In addition to the opera, the DVD set includes a plot synopsis and a gallery of cast photos, as well as monologues by Dove, Middleton, Duncan and Parry offering their individual observations on the opera and its inception.

Pinocchio is a highly enjoyable opera with wide appeal. It could serve well as an introduction to the genre of opera for newcomers young and old. And while no recording can fully replace the experience of a live performance, this Opus Arte release comes very close to that standard.




Frank Swietek
Video Librarian, July 2009

Jonathan Dove’s new opera—presented here in a 2008 mounting at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre—is not the familiar Disneyfied version of Carlo Collodi’s titular 19th-century tale about a puppet who yearns to become a real boy. Rather, Alasdair Middleton’s libretto returns to the far sterner original as it tells the story of Geppetto’s (Jonathan Summers) discovery of the magical log from which he carves his “son” Pinocchio (Victoria Simmonds), after which the puppet embarks on a dangerous journey (full of various encounters with humans, animals, and the Blue Fairy), before eventually reuniting with his father and undergoing a final transformation. Dove’s score is distinctly modern but not overly harsh (often sounding like a lesser Benjamin Britten with a touch of John Cage’s minimalism), but while he deftly mimics natural noises (such as the cricket’s chirping), the music itself is fairly unmelodic and rarely seems inspired. On the other hand, the principal singing and orchestral work (on the part of the Orchestra & Chorus of Opera North, under the baton of David Parry) are both strong, while the staging—although not exactly lavish—is imaginative and colorful. Still, at two-and-a-half hours The Adventures of Pinocchio will test the patience of many viewers, making it questionable whether it will fulfill the creators’ ambition to please both adults and youngsters in the manner of Humperdinck’s perennial classic opera Hansel und Gretel. Presented in DTS 5.1 and LCPM stereo on DVD and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and stereo on Blu-ray, extras include an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery, and brief remarks by Dove, Middleton, Parry, and stage director Martin Duncan. A strong optional purchase.




Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2009


Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2009

Jonathan Dove’s new opera—presented here in a 2008 mounting at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre—is not the familiar Disneyfied version of Carlo Collodi’s titular 19th-century tale about a puppet who yearns to become a real boy. Rather, Alasdair Middleton’s libretto returns to the far sterner original as it tells the story of Geppetto’s (Jonathan Summers) discovery of the magical log from which he carves his “son” Pinocchio (Victoria Simmonds), after which the puppet embarks on a dangerous journey (full of various encounters with humans, animals, and the Blue Fairy), before eventually reuniting with his father and undergoing a final transformation. Dove’s score is distinctly modern but not overly harsh (often sounding like a lesser Benjamin Britten with a touch of John Cage’s minimalism), but while he deftly mimics natural noises (such as the cricket’s chirping), the music itself is fairly unmelodic and rarely seems inspired. On the other hand, the principal singing and orchestral work (on the part of the Orchestra & Chorus of Opera North, under the baton of David Parry) are both strong, while the staging—although not exactly lavish—is imaginative and colorful. Still, at two-and-a-half hours The Adventures of Pinocchio will test the patience of many viewers, making it questionable whether it will fulfill the creators’ ambition to please both adults and youngsters in the manner of Humperdinck’s perennial classic opera Hansel und Gretel. Presented in DTS 5.1 and LCPM stereo on DVD and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and stereo on Blu-ray, extras include an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery, and brief remarks by Dove, Middleton, Parry, and stage director Martin Duncan. A strong optional purchase.



Frank Behrens
Brattleboro Reformer, May 2009

The production, conducted by David Parry and filmed at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, is spectacular. The costume and makeup for Pinocchio (Victoria Simmonds) is remarkable. (She is seen at the very end without the makeup and that is worth the wait.) The makeup and costumes for the Fox, Cat, Snail, Cricket, and other non-human roles are clever and funny.

One can easily see how sanitized the Disney cartoon of “Pinocchio” is by comparison. In the opera, for example, the Cricket intones a few bars of advice and then is squished against the wall by the impatient puppet.

The score is brilliant, but…There seems to be a rule in what is wrongly called modern “opera” that not a single memorable melody must appear in the vocal lines. The closest to what is almost a melody is the Coachman enticing the boys to hop aboard for a trip to Funland. Therefore I am quite sure my impression of this work would have been a lot cooler if I had heard only the sound portion or a CD of the work.



Kevin Filipski
Times Square, May 2009

The Adventures of Pinocchio, Jonathan Dove’s operatic retelling of Collodi’s classic tale about a wooden boy, has tuneful music, witty staging and spectacular singing and acting by Victoria Summers in the title role (best extra: composer interview).



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

Jonathan Dove is one of today’s most fashionable opera composers, and with Pinocchio he has returned to the traditions of 19th century opera. The world premiere was given by Opera North in December 2007, and delighted us in its ability to communicate with both young and the adult audiences, the first act largely dealing with the naughty little wooden boy and the second proving that he can be good. The librettist Alasdair Middleton has gone back to the original novel by Carlo Collodi, the story far more dark in character than the famous Walt Disney film, at one stage Pinocchio coming close to execution. Fast moving as we progress from scene to scene with a rapidity more akin to the cinema, it gives the Stage Director, Martin Duncan, loads of opportunities to try all the tricks of the trade, including the inside of a huge fish that at one stage swallows Pinocchio. For the young Victoria Simmonds, in the title rôle, it is a triumph both in her characterisation and vocal quality. Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto, finds Jonathan Summers in fine voice, with Mary Plazas is the charming Blue Fairy, and Rebecca Bottone a winsome Cricket. It is a very long list of soloists and a few of the minor characters could have been more vocally persuasive. Dove does make extensive use of instrumental colours, the Opera North Orchestra, which also doubles as a major UK symphony orchestra, plays superbly for conductor David Parry. There remains the problem as to how you film it, as unfortunately the obligatory close-ups have robbed the illusion of Pinocchio as being a wooden boy. I can only assure you that as seen in the theatre the makeup—that is here all too obvious—is totally effective in creating a wooden appearance. There had been a number of performances before this film was made at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre early in 2008, the theatre’s compact size keeping the sound nice and tight, but looking cramped when the chorus are on stage. Highly enjoyable.






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6:24:43 AM, 21 September 2014
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