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Jonathan Dove - The Adventures of Pinocchio
Libretto by Alasdair Middleton based upon the novel of Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio: Victoria Simmonds
Geppetto: Jonathan Summers
The Blue Fairy: Mary Plazas
Cricket/Parrot: Rebecca Bottone
Puppeteer/Ape-Judge/Ringmaster: Graeme Broadbent
Lampwick: Allan Clayton
Cat: Mark Wilde
Fox/Coachman: James Laing
Pigeon/Snail: Carole Wilson

The Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North/Conductor: David Parry
Stage Director Martin Duncan
Set & Costume Desgner Francis O'Connor
DVD Producer Ferenc van Damme

Opus Arte DVD 1005 D [filmed at Sadlers Wells Theatre February 2008/released January 2009; 213 minutes including extras]

Here is a triumphant family opera with the widest appeal for all ages, a credit to everyone involved. It is Jonathan Dove’s 21st opera and experience tells. The musical idiom is accessible, but not simplistic, and apt to cope with the gamut of emotions called for, with great climaxes at key points and for the choral finales of the two Acts.

On DVD, vision tends to take primacy, so one is less troubled by the amount of repetition in the score, which bothered some reviewers of the theatre experience. I didn't feel that Dove was "composing down" to an audience of people who like musicals and will have known the Disney Pinocchio, the narrative of which is far from the more complex, and darker, vision of Carlo Collodi. His novel is discussed in the generous Extras monologues, in a way that makes one eager to catch up and read what to the Opera North team is an unique literary original. [It is readily available on the internet and I have been enjoying reading a few short chapters each time I go to my computer !]

Sacreligious maybe to say, Ferenc van Damme's high definition DVD makes for a better experience at home than seeing The Adventures of Pinocchio in the theatre, where we were not the only reviewers to find the two acts, at c. 75 mins each, overlong; The Times hoped that Dove "will have the courage to shorten it for future revivals".

No problem for home viewers; we took a short break at suitable points in each Act... And it was good to have optional subtitles in languages of your choice.

The production and its staging actually benefit from Opera North’s budget constraints, but there was no penny pinching in the filming (a couple of days after we saw it for review at Sadlers Wells) or in the overall presentation. The insert booklet, complete with superb photo illustrations, is far better than those of most DVDs from Opus Arte. The totality is as fine as any other opera on DVD and better than most...

We endorse totally Opus Arte's publicity statement, where you can also access a video clip. The DVD more than satisfies high expectations. It did not quite make it to the shelves in time for last Christmas; make a note of it for this year's presents...

Dove The Adventures of Pinocchio
Opera North at Sadlers Wells
26 February 2008

The Adventures of Pinocchio is the latest triumph of a composer who embraces something of the minimalists without their over-simplicities. We have enjoyed Dove's Flight in Glyndebourne and Antwerp and admired his community operas for Hackney.

This version of the favourite tale about moral education is a great show which will bring pleasure to children of all ages for many years ahead. Although the family behind us did not return after the interval, none of the critics have voiced my thought that towards the endings of both parts cuts of some ten minutes might be desirable.

It is terrific entertainment, a colossal team achievment which might successfully rival perrenial musical blockbusters like The Lion King, who can tell? Victoria Simmonds was the tireless Pinocchio on stage most of the time, supported by a team of quick-changing singers, some of whom took on as many as five roles each. The score, for large orchestra, will reward rehearing, and I look forward to a DVD of The Adventures of Pinocchio for Christmas?

The one recent innovation which for us should be irreversible is that of surtitles for opera (not excluding Opera in English), spurned by Opera North. No serious problems though with audibility of the text in Jonathan Dove's setting of Alistair Middleton's Pinocchio libretto, aided by the well worn device of Handelian repetition.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Another Pinocchio opera, by Pierangelo Valtinoni, originally launched in Vicenza 2001, has just been revived in Berlin and will be reviewed by Musical Pointers. [Editor]