- October 13, 2020
What a joy to be back at Glyndebourne for live opera. 2020 has been a terrible year fro live entertainment for us all so for this place of excellence to find a way forward came as a breath of fresh air. And to choose a chamber piece by Offenbach was inspired. Inspired in many ways, a short piece that would certainly test the water for audience experience in the socially distanced restricted house but more so for the creative team to get their teeth into a wittily transformed version of Mesdames de la Halle.
The story is light but the opportunities afforded, and taken, to reflect the world’s situation in this pandemic have been exploited to hilarious effect – masks, sanitiser, two metre distancing, no three… they’re all there. And the whole takes place on a stage filled with theatrical clutter with simple props. The concept works, the cast transforming themselves into their characters before our eyes into a world that is timeless, a hint of vintage, a touch of contemporary – it echoes the thought that our current situation could have happened at any time and anywhere and to anyone.
The plot is light but the music is a delight and Ben Glassberg propels the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra with a lightness of touch that perfectly frames the pretty and witty tunes.
The cast are equally delicate in their portrayal of the market traders, Brendan Gunnell, Rupert Charlesworth and Michael Wallace, cross-dressed, are hilarious as the would be mothers. Matthew Rose has all the bluff and bluster of a modern figure of authority and Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts is hilarious as the drum major Raflafla marching around the stage like a bewildered rooster.
The love interest is charmingly played, Harry Coe a young cook by Kate Lindsey and Ciboulette, a young fruit seller, by the soaringly beautiful voiced Nardus Williams.
Stephen Plaice’s adaptation is balanced, the silliness used to make sharp points about our current situation, laying blame not only at authority but also at how we as society are responding to that authority.
A delight from start to finish yes, but more so a fine example of how live performance might adapt to the “new normal”. The team behind the smooth running of this major venue have found a way forward that is strictly managed but not oppressive and the much reduced audience make up for their restricted numbers by responding enthusiastically and loudly.
Performances continue to 25 October
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