Review: English Touring Opera’s productions of Ottone and Life On The Moon at Buxton Opera House

English Touring Opera visited Buxton Opera House last week to present Handel’s Ottone and Haydn’s Life On The Moon.

Life on the Moon, presented by English Touring Opera at Buxton Opera House.
Life on the Moon, presented by English Touring Opera at Buxton Opera House.

Ottone, a rarely performed opera, was a real treat. This rarely performed opera was a real treat. The singing was uniformly good and the music beautiful. 
The opera contains many lovely arias and the interweaving patterns between the voices and the orchestra had all the beauty we expect from Handel.

The second act was very rich musically. The duets were outstanding. ‘The night is falling’, was truly haunting and beautifully sung by Gillian Webster as Gismonda and Rosie Aldridge as Matilda. The duet between Clint van der Linde as Ottone and Louise Kemeny as Teofane, when they were finally united, was gently poignant.

The opera was sung in English but, as the plot is full of disguise and mistaken identity, it would have helped to have the full text as sung rather than a very short summary on screen. Since text is repeated in arias, I think this would have helped, rather than distracted the audience.

The set was impressive, as were the gowns, Teofane’s head-dress was a masterpiece.

Overall this performance was of the high standard we have come to expect of the ETO. The orchestra, as always, was great.

This performance was great fun. This comic opera was played for laughs and it worked. The cast were impressive in their versatility and the extent to which they could lark about and still sing very well. Jane Harrison, as Clarice, was outstanding as she felled a hedge and wrestled with a rambling rose and with way-out costumes while singing beautifully. Andrew Slater was just right as Buonafede the gullible miser.

This is a tale of deception but a whimsical farce where a miser is parted from his money, his daughter and her maid by a trick which convinces him that he is on the moon, where men can bully women. Neither is the case.

The set works well, as a formal 18th century garden and then, heavily draped, it is disguised as a lunar landscape. The costumes on the moon, all in white, were very imaginative.

The music is enjoyable, the orchestral music and the instrumental interludes are lively and lovely and were just right in this performance. The singing was excellent.

The text was not given on screen, nor was it needed. The comic scene was set before the overture when Ronan Busfield, as Cecco, gave us a summary of the plot ‘for those too mean to buy a programme’.

It was great to hear Hayden’s finest surviving opera with laughter as an integral part of a most enjoyable evening.