Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Life on the Moon

Haydn/Goldoni/Conway
English Touring Opera
Buxton Opera House
08 November 2014

It’s a spoof sci-fi opera, and it’s all moonshine.  In a sort of “what the butler saw” illusion, a quack astronomer persuades a secretly lecherous old miser that he can see sexy delights by looking at life on the moon through a special telescope. Going further, he then fits out the miser’s garden to look like the moon and gives the old man a magic potion to persuade him that he is in lunar paradise.

It’s all very silly, but with Cal McCrystal, physical comedy director of the One Man, Two Guvnors hit, in charge, it’s a fast-moving yet 18th-century elegant (full wigs and crinolines) comedy built around codology, romantic escapades and avarice.

There are elements of music hall knockabout – objects get dropped and knocked over, there are stumbles and fumbles, and the audience is addressed directly to keep us in on the joke.

Of course, the old miser Buonafeda, a wealthy widower anxious to hide his secret desires from his daughter, gets his come-uppance, and his daughter, maid and pranskters get freedom, marriages and money.

Haydn’s opera was first performed in 1777, but even in 1750, when Goldoni wrote the libretto, scientists were already speculating that there might be life on other planets. So, Buonafeda might well have been gullible.

Greek designer takis excels with the piece, transforming the Roman-style garden into an all-white moonscape, with white costumes and ridiculously elaborate headdresses.

It’s all good fun, even though it runs out of steam towards the end when the joke wears a bit thin.

The five-strong cast, led by the excellent Andrew Slater as Buonafeda, are spirited and sing splendidly.  Christopher Turner makes a jolly astronomer, assisted in lively style by Roman Busfield as his servant Cecco. Jane Harrington develops into a feisty daughter (Clarice) of the old lecher, and Martha Jones is fetching as her maid Lisetta.

Christopher Bucknall conducts in style. And ETO again score a double hit with their delving into the old curiosity shop of 18th –century opera.

 

Reviewer: Philip Radcliffe