REVIEW: The Portrait, Opera North, Theatre Royal, Newcastle

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ANYONE who thinks opera is stuffy and just for the social elite or culturally highbrow, think again.

With a props list including a mobility scooter, a camcorder, an outfit outlined with multicoloured fairy lights, stilts and paintings of Stalin with glowing eyes, The Portrait was far from traditional.

Although I found the first scene or two slow, the rest of the one-night-only performance flowed from the impressive cast and orchestra.

The tale of morals and principles, based on a story by Russian Gogol and composed by Mieczystaw Weinberg and translated into English, follows talented but struggling artist Chartkov who buys a painting with the last of his money.

The strange picture, a mirror for the purposes here, mysteriously spouts cash as his landlady appears full of rage that he has not paid his rent. He pledges to answer his calling as an artist as he celebrates his riches, but instead enlists the help of a journalist to advertise his skills.

He lands himself with list of commissions to paint portraits of the powerful and famous, bowing to their requests to portray them in the light they favour themselves to be shown.

Among them was 3ft something Liza, who whizzed on to the stage on powered wheels, concealed beneath her dress, which was hilarious.