Ancient and modern worlds meet in Opera Della Luna’s version of Orpheus in the Underworld at Buxton Opera House

Orpheus in the Underworld. Photo by Craig Fuller.
Orpheus in the Underworld. Photo by Craig Fuller.

A production of Orpheus in the Underworld at Buxton Opera House marks the 25th anniversary of Opera Della Luna, the UK’s only full-time comic opera company, and their welcome return to the town, writes Mavis Kirkham.

The new orchestral arrangement is by Thibault Perrine and the new English version by Jeff Clarke makes the opera very up to date in all its satirical daftness.

It is clear that Offenbach was the precursor of Gilbert and Sullivan and much later musical comedy and satire. There is lots of buffoonery, witty songs and modern references, including David Cameron explaining why he is a butler in hell.

Roles are reversed. The gods are laughable. Euridice does not want to return to her husband, neither does he want her back. But Public Opinion, in the form of an Arts Council assessor insists that he pursue her.

The music is tuneful and funny, including a joking nod towards Gluck’s earlier opera with its memorable aria. The singing is skilful and constantly pokes fun in all directions.

There is, of course, the cancan, danced as originally intended by energetic young men. Joshua de la Garde, Samuel Witty, Charlie Mula and Freddie Conway are excellent as the infernal dancers. Jenny Arnold’s choreography is full of energy and appropriately hellish.

This is an opera where nothing is sacred, including our expectations of opera.

There is rebellion in heaven, and authority is the butt of jokes amongst the ancient gods, 19th century France, 21st century Britain and the operatic greats.

It takes a lot of skill to be that daft.

Orpheus in the Underworld continues its run on July 11 at 2pm and July 17 at 7.15pm. To book, go to www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk or call 01298 72190.