Updated: May 28, 2021
Jacques Offenbach and Ludovic Halévy
Opera della Luna and Buxton International Festival
Buxton Opera House
8 July 2019 - 17 July 2019; 2hr 30 min
Seen in Salford on tour in 2015, Jeff Clarke’s reinterpretation of Offenbach’s operetta for Opera della Luna has been revamped for the Buxton International Festival and is even more fun than before.
Jeff is still in charge as director; the choreography by Jenny Arnold enlivens the whole show again, with four ‘infernal dancers’ for the cancan and much else besides; Maria Lancashire’s jolly costumes make a return too.
There is also reintroduced ballet music rarely heard in other productions – I guess they knew they needed proper dancers for the infernal cancan so they might as well use them thoroughly. So we have a pas des moutons in the opening pastoral and a flies’ polka later on.
Changing from a thrust stage without much of a set to the proscenium view at Buxton, with some very nice cloths and props by designer Elroy Ashmore, makes quite a difference. There’s a little orchestra with single strings plus six others, playing an arrangement of the score by Thibault Perrine which works very well.
Luna performers from the previous version are Louise Crane (Juno), Katharine Taylor-Jones (the character of embodied Public Opinion – in this case transformed into an Arts Council of England assessor who knows even less about art than Sir Les Patterson) and Tristan Stocks as Orpheus, who has to sing tenor and play Che Faro on the violin while in character – ie badly, which he does rather well.
We also have some very good new actor-singers, in particular Daire Halpin as Eurydice, Anthony Flaum as Pluto, Matthew Siveter as Jupiter, Lynsey Docherty as Diana and Paul Featherstone as Mercury and John Styx.
The operetta, brought back to its historical roots by Jeff Clarke, shows the inhabitants of Olympus (one big dysfunctional family, rather like Downton Abbey at its worst) and an Orpheus and Eurydice who don’t actually like each other, with Pluto disguised as a shepherd carrying her off to the lower regions. Jupiter and the other gods descend to the underworld, Jupiter gets Eurydice out by disguising himself as a fly, and it all ends with a party and... see for yourself.
Jeff Clarke has updated the text again with lots of topical allusions (MeToo, fake news, Wikileaks, etc etc), When I was king of the Beotians this time becomes a soliloquy by one "‘Dave’ who was ‘king of Chipping Norton’ and ‘called that referendum... Donald Tusk has since confirmed it – I have a special place in hell’". Too true.