Review: Opera Come Strictly, Aylesbury Waterside

Opera Come Strictly, which performed at Aylesbury Waterside on Saturday evening, does at least do what it says on the tin. It is an evening of operatic arias, some of which are accompanied by ballroom dancing. And as such, it’s perfectly serviceable. The 15-piece orchestra, playing arrangements by musical director Stephen Higgins, give accomplished renditions that form a solid backbone to the evening.

There are, however, some severe shortcomings which prevent this from being as enjoyable an evening as it could be.

The whole show hangs together quite well enough as it is, but Andy D’s narration is entirely unnecessary, never mind that it’s delivered in a stilted and forced manner that is completely inappropriate for the mood of the evening.

Ballroom dancers Michael and Martina Burton glide their way through many an aria. Their dancing is very pleasant, although the music they are accompanying doesn’t quite give them the scope for variation in dance styles that people have come to expect under the ‘Strictly’ ballroom tag.

But despite dance and opera being given joint billing in the show title, and in the narrative repetition of the production company’s title Due Arti In Armonia (‘two art forms in harmony’), it is the singing which is at the fore here. Tenor Andrew Amdur takes on the lion’s share here, and although he gets off to a shaky start with Josef Locke’s signature number Hear My Song, he generally gives a creditable performance throughout.

One gets the impression, though, that it his 9-year-old daughter, Annabella Amdur, who the producers wish to be the star of the show. And while it is unusual for someone so young to have any sort of operatic tone to their singing voice, I was left wondering whether she is good enough yet to have to cope with the pressures of headlining a show. There is a lovely tone to her voice in places, but to reach the higher notes of the soprano’s range seems to be a strain for her, leaving her unable to articulate each syllable as clearly as she otherwise can. That, and greater breath control to stop some lines fading out before the words have finished, will come with time and training. And as she learns, I’m sure she will develop a finer affinity with the emotion behind each song, and a greater confidence on stage which in turn will help sell each performance to the audience.

I have to say, I would question the wisdom of making a 9-year-old with so much still to learn the centre of attention in this way. I can’t help but feel that focussing on tuition and honing of her craft will serve her better in the long term than being thrust into the spotlight at this age.

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.