Tales of Offenbach review at Wilton’s Music Hall, London – ‘unmatchable hilarity’
Under the leadership of Jeff Clarke, Opera della Luna devotes itself exclusively to comic opera and operetta. No company in the land can match its collective know-how in bringing out to the max the humour of such pieces.
Its current programme consists of two entirely forgotten one-act works by Offenbach: Croquefer, or The Last of the Paladins, which premiered in Paris in 1857, and The Isle of Tulipatan, which dates from 11 years later. Both are sung in Clarke’s own bright and breezy translations, and he directs them in his customary and entirely appropriate style of madcap mayhem.
Croquefer has an almost Pythonesque plot – though it’s a good deal ruder, not to say indecent. Noisily heroic as played by Carl Sanderson, the title character is a medieval knight whose 23-year-old feud with his tongue-less enemy Rattlebone (Paul Featherstone grunts his way manfully through the role) is on the point of reaching its violent climax when cunningly poisoned wine brings on a bout of collective diarrhoea that renders all combatants incapable of fighting.
In The Isle of Tulipatan, wrongly assigned gender afflicts both Prince Alexis (neatly sung by Caroline Kennedy) and Field Marshal Rhomboid’s daughter Hermosa (a hilarious personification from Anthony Flaum). When their real sexual identities are finally uncovered, they happily team up.
Clarke’s stagings relish the outrageous absurdity of both pieces, while the two scores turn out to be top-drawer Offenbach, each one a succession of clever and attractive numbers expertly delivered by the cast and given sharpness and vivacity by conductor Toby Purser.
The five singers involved take part in both operas. As well as Prince Alexis, Kennedy is wonderfully dim as Croquefer’s squire, Fireball, with Flaum insanely vain as his nephew Headstrong. Lynsey Docherty is winsome as Rattlebone’s daughter Peasblossom and hyper-sophisticated as Rhomboid’s guilty wife, Theodorine.