Going to the Weihnachtsmarkt again this weekend? Take those gloves off! I’ve a less conventional way for you to get that warm, fuzzy, Christmassy feeling inside you (and still have your Glühwein fix). It’s a Christmas love story between a group of Bohemians in 1830s Paris, full of life-affirming merriment raucously fuelled by alcohol and creativity, love that is profound, and music that makes the soul sing… and lots of Glühwein. It’s ‘La Boheme’. And it’s an opera.
Opera? If I wanted people in old-fashioned clothes shrieking in my face I’d go to my parents’ house. It’s a dull, jumped-up, overly-classy affair attended by bored dilettantes riding on the coattails of their family trust funds, right? Well, actually, no. Not this performance. I know this because I went to one of their previous shows, Dido & Aeneas.
I walked in with the exact same mindset that most of you have. Except this production company, Puccini’s Toaster, does things differently. Rather, they’re making shows for you, and me, and everyone else who has either been too intimidated or just too indifferent to care about opera.
As producer Sarah Ring says, “Our goal for Puccini’s Toaster is to strip away the conventions in which opera is traditionally consumed. No fancy clothes? No problem. Confused about when to clap? Clap when you want. Don’t want to wait until intermission to have a beer? We don’t either. By presenting opera in intimate spaces, it helps people connect with the core of what makes opera so spectacular and makes an art form that is hundreds of years old relevant in our modern society.”
The entire model of Puccini’s Toaster is based around making opera more accessible for people in Berlin, even for classless stooges like myself. They’re doing away with the traditional conventions surrounding opera, opting for a dressed down affair away from the black ties. Instead of theatre-style chairs there are a scattering of tables where guests can sit, watch and drink as though at dinner. Even the theatre is was held at – the ehemaliges Stummfilmkino Delphi – is a beautifully bare-boned, stripped back hall that would be considered ugly by conventional standards.
Their shows are deliberately minimalist and this is transferred beautifully into the production. The lack of apparent setting or backdrop means that the audience is captivated wholly by the talents of the cast and the small orchestra accompanying them. Everything is spare; from the use of props to the simple dress of singers, and the end result of this is a simple and easily digestible show.
Likewise, there are no expectations of the crowd. Everything was casual yet intimate. At various points throughout the show, actors and actresses brought the show off the stage, stalking through the crowd, occasionally snatching someone’s drink to hold like a trophy while declaring a line.
As an opera virgin I was impressed. And really I’d urge anyone, those with a trenchant love of opera and those who, like me, have never seen a show before to go check out Puccini’s Toasters next production, of Puccini’s festive classic ‘La Boheme’. Plus, there’ll be Glühwein throughout the entire show.
Tickets can be bought on the door, but you can also ensure your seat by prebooking here.
Puccini’s Toaster. Opera. Berlin Loves You.
‘La Boheme’ by Puccini’s Toaster
Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th of December
The Ehemaliges Stummfilmkino Delphi, Gustav-Adolf-Straße 2, 13086 Berlin.