Wolf Witch Giant Fairy review – endearing family folk opera with ageless streak | Opera
TThere are three fairytale villains, right there in the title of Little Bulb’s new show, when most storytellers settle for one, but the only gluttony here is that of Little Red Riding Hood’s nemesis. Staged at the Linbury Theater, with Little Bulb drawing on the creative resources of the Royal Opera, Wolf Witch Giant Fairy crushes three fairy tales together to make a gently subversive family performance, steeped in folk music, aimed at young children but with a twisted, ageless sequence.
Clare Beresford’s brave Little Red Riding Hood meets the wolf on the way to his grandmother’s house, but is then turned away; she meets the witch Baba Yaga, escapes after a frantic pursuit and is thrown back on the shore of the village where the giant has stolen the golden harp. A few Magic Beans later, she climbs like Jack on the Beanstalk, saves the day, and finally arrives at her grandmother’s house – where Tom Penn’s wolf, a delightfully hunched villain, playing castanets in almost pantomime fashion, eat it. This is where the Fairy – bearded and twirling a beautiful pair of butterfly wings – reveals herself.
There’s a family, traveler feel on the whole, a sort of self-conscious awkwardness, that makes it feel like it’s grounded and timeless. This is in part thanks to the delightful details and spirit of Samuel Wyer’s designs, especially the headdresses. It’s also thanks to the music, which is a flexible and almost constant backdrop to the storytelling: it draws on Italian and Balkan folk melodies, not that it ever does it consciously enough that you realize it. account. Little Bulb’s Music Director Dominic Conway conducts guitar as part of a 10-person cast; together they form an instrumental ensemble comprising piano, violin, accordion and dulcimer, and they each play a role. Opera audiences might recognize Peter Brathwaite’s pretentious narrator and Claire Wild’s Baba Yaga, who launch high-pitched soprano notes with a frightening sneer, but it’s Baba Yaga’s flaming cat, played by the director Alexander Scott, who can’t help but monopolize the stage during a song.