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Life on the Moon

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Joining Handel and Bach on ETO’s national tour is a real rarity, an Austrian’s take on a Venetian tale of an old miser persuaded by a would-be astrologer that he has flown to the moon. Mindful of Cal McCrystal’s part in the success of Richard Bean’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s Il servitore di due padroni One Man, Two Guvnors, ETO plainly hoped that he could apply his particular Midas touch to a fantastical Goldoni libretto set by several composers before Haydn got his hands on it.

The original score, which runs for two and three quarter hours in Antal Dorati’s studio recording, has been pared down to manageable proportions for this radically reconfigured English version ‘translated’ by company supremo James Conway and majoring, as you might expect, on physical comedy. Purists will be outraged. One act disappears, a second daughter and her beau have been eliminated and the work’s standout aria is reassigned to another character.

Keeping the science fiction angle firmly in context, the set and costume designs by Takis give us a super-bright but recognisably 18th-century country house milieu for McCrystal’s razor-sharp sight gags and some fine singing. Given superb diction all round, no surtitles are required. Andrew Slater uses his dry timbre with real aplomb in the central role of Buonafede, the lascivious buffoon enthusiastically shaken down by his daughter and her maid. There are moments of repose, most notably the moonscape at the start of Act II, but the show should be taken for what it is, a musical tour de farce. The 20-strong orchestra under Christopher Bucknall adopts authenticist manners, never overly polite.

  • Hackney Empire, London
  • October 17, then touring until November 20. PN October 17
  • Composer: Joseph Haydn librettist: James Conway after Carlo Goldoni
  • Conductor: Christopher Bucknall
  • Director: Cal McCrystal
  • Design: Takis set/costume, Lee Curran lighting
  • Cast: Christopher Turner, Ronan Busfield, Jane Harrington, Andrew Slater, Martha Jones
  • Producer: English Touring Opera
  • Running time: 2hrs 25mins
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