Edinburgh Fringe 2019
An uplifting and amusing guide to what many regard as an impenetrable musical genre.
Laughing Horse’s Nineties Room at its City Bar venue is not much bigger than the average broom cupboard. So it looks pretty much like organised chaos when you’ve got thirty or so people sitting on top of each other, leaving barely any room for Madame Chandelier to deliver her (very) rough guide to the opera.
All classical opera plots, as the many in the room who were all too familiar with the art form well-knew, feature a 16 year old girl (invariably played by busty 40 year old soprano) falling in love, singing a quick aria, getting married to a dishy looking tenor, singing another aria and then dying, normally by contracting tuberculosis. And then she sings an encore. The whole thing normally takes 4-5 hours. Or 4-5 days if it’s been written by Wagner.
Madame Chandelier, however, manages to cover a lot more than this in just 45 minutes in a whirlwind of extracts from popular arias, side-splitting comedic asides and a lot of high notes (lots of Bbs and C’s and even a top F, for those that like these sort of details).
It’s full on from the moment she squeezes herself into the room, her accordion at the ready to add a bit of ballast to her voice. And what a voice she has – classically trained, clear as crystal and supremely accurate, although a little hoarse given that she’s been performing solidly now for over two weeks (most divas don’t heave themselves out of bed more than twice in the average week, darling).
Champagne is immediately dispensed as we embark upon the operatic equivalent of pass the parcel, except in this instance you only get to quaff the booze if you happen to be holding the shot when she hits a high note. Which is pretty often. Hence her large supply of shot glasses to go with that bottle. We then take a dance through the various stages in the average opera allowing Ms Chandelier to display her undoubted vocal talents in addition to her proclivity for clever segues and stand-up. And the show comes to a rousing finale with a raucous sing-along Nessun Dorma.
Yet underneath all this silliness is a consummate raconteur and accomplished singer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre. Delea Shand’s alter ego is a beautifully shaped character, one who has an excellent rapport with her audience, an inventive sense of humour that’s alternately dry, satirical, self-deprecating as well as being very topical and she clearly loves performing. There’s some clever use of props, plenty of audience involvement and a death scene that was as amusing as it was spectacular.
Engaging, sharp-witted, brilliant with her audience and a great singing voice, this is a show that emphatically pricks the pretence of opera. Highly recommended for anyone with a sense of humour – Madame Chandelier really does open up opera to all-comers.