Life on the Moon and Ottone, English Touring Opera, Hackney Empire - review

ETO hits the road with some sparky and stylish Baroque

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The Independent Culture

Now out on the road, English Touring Opera has some unexpected tricks up its sleeve, most notably a production of Haydn’s charming Il mondo della luna which breaks every rule in the Baroque book - except the cardinal one that the idiom of the music must be scrupulously honoured.

James Conway’s laugh-a-line translation and takis’s joke-stuffed sets may obliterate the plot, but they suit director Cal McCrystal’s purpose, which is to apply raunchy physical-theatre tricks in such profusion that the audience is put into a state of permanent dazzlement. The cast of five are accomplished farceurs, and deliver their coloratura with impressive precision.

The relentless hilarity may be too much for some tastes, but if it attracts a new audience, well and good. Those who come back for ETO’s second show will get Handel’s Ottone in a minimal (if pleasing) staging, an adroit new translation, and with singing of the highest order.

Countertenor Clint van der Linde finds a lovely nobility of sound in the title role, and the trio of women – sopranos Louise Kemeny and Gillian Webster, and mezzo Rosie Aldridge - are each in their own way stunning; conductor Jonathan Peter Kenny extracts ravishing effects from the period-instrument Old Street Band.