The course of love never does run smooth and neither does the course of most fairytales. Random cruelty and stunning setbacks abound until the happily-ever-after part finally kicks in.
In Jonathan Dove’s opera The Enchanted Pig (presented by Hampstead Garden Opera at Jacksons Lane), a princess is betrothed to a pig because she disobeyed her father. Worse, her equally naughty sisters make out rather better in the marriage stakes.
Forced to wed her swinish swain (Dan D’Souza, making the most of a limited role), Princess Flora (an expressive Flora Macdonald) soon discovers he’s really a prince under the spell of an enchantress (a beguiling Christie Cook). Princess Flora puts on her iron boots to search the world for her porker prince, who’s earmarked by the enchantress for her selfish daughter, Adelaide.
Adelaide (Anna Cavaliero) has the opera’s most memorable aria, a bridezilla rant that terrifies her cowed servants. It’s a coloratura gem with strong echoes of Sondheim. In this opera Dove treads frequently into the territory of high-end musicals otherwise occupied by the likes of Sondheim and Bernstein. There are also lashings of quotations from the operatic, pop and symphonic repertory (the opening of Janacek’s Sinfonietta, for one, and much Britten).
Director Laura Attridge and movement director Caitlin Fretwell Walsh get the most out of their youthful cast, who play multiple roles in a tight ensemble. This deftly staged production also boasts witty costumes and well-considered lighting, along with a solid on-stage orchestra directed by Hannah Quinn. A special shout-out to cellist Mathieu Foubert for enhancing some tender scenes with his forays into his instrument’s highest registers.
If I have a few quibbles about the vocal consistency of some of the young performers, and I find the stage fog to be a cough-inducing distraction, I am on the whole entirely under the spell of this production of The Enchanted Pig. It’s a hugely enjoyable evening of light-hearted music featuring energetic and well-directed performers.