The Duenna / Promised End, Linbury Studio, London
Radamisto, Coliseum, London
Minotaur Music Theatre, Rosemary Branch, London

Three hours of shouting in a chocolate box is not to everyone's taste – luckily, our critic has a soft centre

First performed in 1775, The Duenna marked the resurgence of comic opera in England. Or so the story goes.

Despite the best efforts of Thomas Arne, whose opera Artaxerxes aspired to Italian elegance, London had never mislaid its funny bone. A disputatious collaboration between the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, his father-in-law Thomas Linley, and his brother-in-law Tom Linley, The Duenna is the missing link between John Gay and Gilbert and Sullivan. Its score is a pretty hodge-podge of Pleasure Garden serenades, strophic laments, Irish and Scottish folksongs, Continental borrowings and what W S Gilbert would later refer to as "blameless dances", pricked through a prolix spoken comedy too in love with its own aperçus.

In a country heaving with 18th-century stylists, casting The Duenna should be a cinch. But Sheridan's famed wit falls flat and ugly in Michael Barker-Caven's English Touring Opera production. Though love is the supposed engine, petulance and vanity prevail as minxy Louisa (Charlotte Page) and sulky Clara (Olivia Safe) conspire with matronly Margaret (Nuala Willis) to outwit Louisa's dominering father Don Jerome (Richard Suart) and his son-in-law designate, Isaac Mendoza (Adrian Thompson). Louisa's Antonio (Joseph Shovelton) is feckless, while Clara's Ferdinand (Damian Thantrey) has an anger-management issue.

The dialogue is either arch or blustering, and quite at odds with the simplicity and charm of the music, which calls for Mozartian elegance and Handelian fluidity but gets neither. A mixed-ability, period-instruments orchestra under Joseph McHardy features lovely flute-playing and some eye-watering intonation problems from the violas. If you like the idea of being trapped in a chocolate box and shouted at for three hours – and judging from the hilarity around me, many people do – it's a must-see.

Promised End is The Duenna's unlikely companion piecein ETO's autumn tour. Alexander Goehr's opera focuses on the relationships between Lear (Roderick Earle) and Gloucester (Nigel Robson), Gloucester and Edgar (Adrian Dwyer), and Lear and Cordelia (Lina Markeby, also as the Fool). Beautifully designed and lit by Adam Wiltshire and Guy Hoare, James Conway's production closely mirrors Goehr's pace and structure. Movements are stylised, Regan (Julia Sporsen) and Goneril (Jacqueline Varsey) a two-headed, eight-limbed knot of spite. Under Ryan Wigglesworth, the Aurora Orchestra unpicks Goehr's coagulated spasms and madrigalian figures with clarity and care.

David Alden's Santa Fe production of Radamisto has been gussied up for English National Opera with Lawrence Zazzo as the bafflingly magnanimous Thracian hero. Aside from dressing Tigrane (Ailish Tynan) in a fat-suit and a fez, there are few directorial caprices, leaving the cast free to sniff, stroke and caress the fuchsia-and-gold walls of Gideon Davey's set while Lawrence Cummings whips the orchestra into a frenzy of dancing semiquavers and sexily-swung French trills. Radamisto barely ranks in the Handel top 10, but its many arias are felicitous, most particularly for Zenobia (Christine Rice), who is kidnapped by nasty Tiridate (Ryan McKinny) to the dismay of his wife Polissena (Sophie Bevan). That every word of Christopher Cowell's translation is clear is a mixed blessing, for this is an extremely silly plot, and Alden betrays a fatal lack of conviction in his handling of the dénouement. That aside, the singing and playing are marvellous.

Pub-opera veterans Minotaur Music Theatre fielded a cast of bright young singing students in Stuart Barker's triple bill. Pianists Eunjung Lee and Genevieve Ellis alternated as conductor and orchestra, the former lending poise to Savitri, Holst's lumpy hymn to feminine virtue, the latter bringing pep to Stephen Oliver's wordless comedy, The Waiter's Revenge, with countertenor Jonathan Darbourne outstanding as the hapless Waiter in Hin und Zurück, Hindemith's 10-minute conceit, the highlight in a week of operatic rarities, with Louise Lloyd a polished and perky Helene.

'The Duenna', Theatre Royal, Bath (01225 448844) from 18 Oct, then touring; 'Promised End', Malvern Theatre (01684 892277) to 21 Oct, then touring; 'Radamisto'(0871 911 0200) to 4 Nov

Next Week:

Anna Picard is off to the pub again, for a new version of The Barber of Seville

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home