The Secretary Turned CEO
In a radical reworking of Pergolesi’s comic opera La Serva Padrona, composer Danyal Dhondy moves the action from an 18th-century boudoir to the office of the toilet paper factory Soft Sheets Inc. It’s a bold move that’s ripe for some ribald comedy and while Dhondy playfully updates the flirtatious intrigues of the Baroque, Rebecca Marriott’s fresh libretto lacks the polish to match. This is countered somewhat by the contemporary recitative, which complements the original and helps ease the transition, but also highlights the vast divide between performing musical comedy and performing opera.
As Selena, the wily secretary of the title, Joanne Watson offers a valiant, versatile soprano with a knack for bawdy comedy that helps to bridge the divide. Crispin Lewis however delivers a solid vocal performance as Hugo, but his comedy acting seems awkward and forced, as if he is trying desperately to reach some kind of happy medium. Full marks to Jordan Ellaych as the silent Intern for earning all his laughs without singing a note.
This awkward hybrid is an uphill struggle mostly but not without merit, particularly the accomplished string-heavy band and an audacious use of colour in the costumes and props from designer Rhian Morris.