Review: The Grand Old Opera House Hotel

An ambitious and buoyant love story set to the tunes of classic opera

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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The Grand Old Opera House Hotel
Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Published 07 Aug 2023

Two signs for Scomodo Hotels hang above the stage, a lifeless pink hotel corridor below, complete with lights that flicker at random intervals. We’re in The Grand Old Opera House Hotel and it’s fair to say that it’s pretty dire. 

Isobel McArthur’s new ensemble comedy is an ambitious and buoyant love story, with two weary hotel workers at its heart, as well as the classical music they both connect over. Though we’re told from the beginning that this hotel was an old opera house once engulfed in flames, it’s a genuine delight when the characters burst into song, providing a real divergence from the stark and sterile backdrop of the hotel. 

A real highlight is Aaron’s a capella solo of the Donizetti aria ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, but towards the end of the production, we’re also treated to grumpy guest complaints hilariously sung to the tunes of pieces from famous operas, including ‘Largo Al Factotum’ from The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s ''Le nozze di Figaro' overture and ‘Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici’ from La Traviata. 

Ali Watt and Karen Fishwick give memorable performances as Aaron and Amy, but it’s the immense camaraderie of the entire cast that amplifies the slapstick, farcical energy of the story. In particular, the rapid switches that the ensemble makes between characters, from generic hotel workers to drunk guests and ghosts of the opera, draw attention to the strength in the casting. An ultimately fun and uplifting operatic escapade, The Grand Old Opera House Hotel is about finding hope in the unlikeliest of places.