Muso by Impropera at The Wallace Collection is an unusual performance, it not only merges two scenic genres – improvisation theatre and opera, but also presents it within the museum walls, commenting on its history and exposition.
The evening began with a short introduction of the theatre troupe and a couple of improvisations. “What would Richard Wallace’s ghost say if he saw you all in his house”, the audience was challenged. A quick response that we are poorly dressed was immediately picked up by the cast, and became a playful scene with stylists and models discussing the looks.
The evening set off. The audience directed to walk through a few of the museum’s galleries, and write down some notes and thoughts on the objects which caught their attention. The singers were passing through the galleries, giving occasional performances and commenting on some of the objects on view: medals and coins, sculptures and paintings, often jokes were made which delighted the audience.
The main part of the show, however, started 20 minutes later, when all impressions and comments by guests were collected, and the audience took their seats in the lecture theatre of the museum. While the museum’s curator talked through the biography of Sir Richard Wallace, the actors of the Impropera intervened with opera sketches and comments. Moreover, they picked up phrases from the visitors’ cards randomly, presenting them as scenes.
The evening was full of humour, introducing real historical facts and imaginary situations. England, Scotland, France, even Portugal made the set; actors playing family members and citizens, animals and ghosts. It was an amusing mix of proper academic lecture and opera, spiced with some topical commentaries on Brexit and cultural funding.
Attending such a performance requires a bit of work from the audience. It’s not only writing down the comments and giving some punch lines, but also following the story. With no costumes or scenery, and just a brief introduction, use of your own imagination is required.
Muso by Impropera is definitely a unique experience, and the director, David Pearl, mentioned at the end that the performance that the production will come to more new locations later this year. Started originally at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, the project seems to have a bright future, exploring the connections between science and drama, museums and theatres, improvisation and opera arts. If you are looking for something fresh, Muso is full of surprising stories and unpredictable associations.