Performed by Music Theatre Wales as part of Buxton Festival, the action took place mainly in the tiny kitchen of a Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurant.
The cast of five were impressive as actors as well as singers, rapidly moving through many roles: as kitchen workers, customers and neighbours, on to which was superimposed the fable of the cricket and the ant.
The orchestra was on stage with the musicians in appropriate aprons and hats and they were very much part of the action. The singing was in English with every syllable clear.
The story involved a young Chinese boy with a toothache who could not go to a dentist because he had no money and no papers. A fellow worker extracted his tooth after which he bled to death and his colleagues dumped his body in the river. He sang of the watery journey as, eventually, his bones returned to China but he never found his sister who he was expected to look out for. The extracted tooth had its own journey.
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The themes of the opera were strikingly modern: the horrors which can face those who seek refuge in a foreign land, the sexual exploitation and violence which many face and the worries of the families they leave behind.
This was an excellent performance of an important work. It made us laugh and it made us think as well as appreciating the music: Buxton Festival at its best.