Life on the Moon, English Touring Opera, ETO, October 2014Posted on 18 October 2014
This is all huge fun and the packed audience at London’s Hackney Empire clearly loved the staging of this Haydn opera by comedy specialist Cal McCrystal.
The plot is simple; a wealthy but miserly widower named Buonafede (good faith), superbly sung by Andrew Slater, is tricked into giving dowries to his daughter and his maid so they can marry a quack astronomer named Ecclitico and his servant Ecco. Ecclitico dupes Buonafede, who knows nothing of the moon’s true nature, and persuades him to take a trip there where they meet Ecclitico’s servant Cecco, disguised as Emperor of the Moon.
The fun starts before the music begins, with a hilarious introduction by Ronan Busfield as Cecco that put me in mind of a variety show rather than an opera, but this is a light-hearted piece, written originally for a wedding at the Esterházy court. Haydn’s music, lovingly conducted by Christopher Bucknall, has a rhythmic quality that inspires movement and even a few dance steps from the cast of five singers. The apparent spontaneity of the choreography and tomfoolery was aided by excellent diction that rendered surtitles quite unnecessary, and there were none.
Scenery and designs by takis, well lit by Lee Curran, were a delight, with flowers, foliage and bright cheerful colours in Part I, contrasted with white for the world of the moon in Part II. The ladies, Jane Harrington as Buonafede’s daughter Clarice, and Martha Jones as his maid Lisette were both excellent fun, and I loved the moment when Lisette rolled her eyes at one of Clarice’s longer arias. This kind of wittiness is well judged, though some things could need intervention from the director when it goes on tour to make sure the singers don’t play things too much for laughs and turn this charming comedy into Haydn meets Monty Python.
In conclusion, a most enjoyable evening and the ETO’s well-judged cuts keep the performance down to less than two and half hours including interval.
Performances continue on tour at: West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, 22nd Oct; Theatre Royal Bath, 27th Oct; Harrogate Theatre, 1st Nov; Gala Theatre, Durham, 4th Nov; Buxton Opera House, 8th Nov; Malvern Theatres, 11th Nov; Snape Maltings Concert Hall, 14th Nov; Exeter Northcott Theatre, 19th, 20th Nov — for details click here.