Haydn's Life on the Moon

Haydn's Life on the Moon
Haydn's Life on the Moon

Haydn tends to suffer the same fate as Schubert: we forget that he wrote operas. Quite a few of them too – 15, to be exact. They are rarely put on, so all credit to English Touring Opera (ETO) for staging Il mondo della luna, Haydn’s 1777 operatic take on a Carlo Goldoni comedy. ETO has form: they put on L'infidelta delusa back in 2007.

The foremost question is, of course, is the opera any good? There aren't the ineffably beautiful melodies or the ability to cut to the quick when it comes to human emotions of Mozart; actually, there's not even really a good tune to hum on your way home. But then most opera pales in comparison to Mozart. And if it's fair to say that neither Haydn nor Schubert's theatrical works are on the same superlative level as some of their string quartets, symphonies and sonatas, then I'd still rather see second-rate Haydn than the first-rate efforts of quite a few others. Which is a long-winded way of saying that Il mondo della luna makes for a highly enjoyable evening out thanks to ETO's lively staging.

It has one of those farcical plots that can’t fail to make you smile: a daughter (Clarice) wants to marry her suitor (Ecclitico) but her overprotective, misogynist, astronomy-loving father (Buonafede) won’t let her. So Ecclitico tricks Buonafede into drinking a magic potion that’ll whisk him off to the ‘moon’, aka his own garden in disguise, where they’ll hold the wedding – only to later reveal when back on earth that it was legally binding. Crafty. A thread of slapstick runs through director Cal McCrystal’s joyful production, and the tone is set by the addition of a spoken prologue in which Ronan Busfield (Cecco) introduces the characters and performers.

Sets and costumes by takis blend period costume with DIY-lunar chic. Every member of ETO’s cast – Christopher Turner, Ronan Busfield, Jane Harrington, Andrew Slater, Martha Jones – turned in an excellent performance – committed and clearly relishing the story. And under the baton of Christopher Bucknall, the orchestra of ETO did fine work in the pit.


Picture credit: Richard Hubert Smith

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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