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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Melbourne, Cheremushki (Victorian Opera), at Arts Centre Melbourne - 110 minutes

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

What a wild and woolly ride the operetta Melbourne, Cheremushki is.

Depending upon your taste, you may view it as breaching the sanctity of the art form or as embracing the counterculture.

While I appreciate the classics, I also long for exciting new works and this certainly fits the bill, being a twist on Dmitri Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheremushki.

Photos by Charlie Kinross

The work of librettists Vladimir Mass and Mikhail Chervinksy has been recontextualised from the Russian capital in the 1950s to modern day Melbourne.

The grotesque is mixed with the bawdy and high farce prevails.

The narrative arc, the incendiary lyrics, the outlandish humour and the creative sets and props generate the disruption in which this three act operetta revels.

The voices are strong and melodic, with many in the cast, including tenor Douglas Kelly, excelling … and being in English I didn’t need to read surtitles. Isn’t that a bonus?

The story concerns the hardship faced by ordinary Melburnians of Russian extraction.

Most people are struggling to make ends meet and there is a massive housing crisis. Sound familiar?

Further, corruption is rife and there are queues whenever any new accommodation – no matter how weathered or small – comes up for rent.

Into this environment steps a sleazy and ambitious bureaucrat.

I greatly applaud Victorian Opera for its endeavours with Melbourne, Cheremushki, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The operetta is part of the VO Emerges program.

That is designed to give performers, technicians and musicians with less than 10 years’ professional experience an opportunity to work with the state opera company.

With such talented exponents of the art, the future of opera in Victoria looks (and sounds) particularly bright.

Constantine Costi directs. Richard Mills is artistic director and Simon Bruckard conducts.

If slapstick appeals, Melbourne, Cheremushki generates no shortage of laughs and deserves a longer run than the four days in the current season.

It is on at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until 25th March, 2023.


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