Found and Lost (Corinthia Hotel, London)
A novel operatic journey through a busy London hotel
No, you haven't come to the wrong place. The Corinthia Hotel atrium may bear an uncanny resemblance to the setting for Jonathan Miller's ENO Mikado, still packing 'em in at the Coliseum, but the absence of camp bell-hops and blowsy chambermaids - and the presence of real live guests complete with bemused stares - tells you this is for real.
The hotel's annual artist in residence scheme has plumped for opera this year, if a ten-strong chorus, two actors and an itinerant cellist (Oliver Coates) can properly be so called. Composer Emily Hall and wordsmith Matthew Welton, whose text is derived from the 'found footage' of the hotel's internal publications, have created a 50-minute promenade entertainment in which a dozen onlookers tour the hotel while an elusive golden couple (Tony Comley and Jesse Raiment) attempt to do each other in. Who will succeed in the dirty deed, he with the monkey wrench or she with the pillow?
Hall's music has a free range of styles and depends on extensive pre-recorded contributions from talents as varied as tenor Allan Clayton and creative voice artist Sofia Jernberg. At some times the ever-present choristers of Siglo De Oro blend with the disembodied sounds, at others they sing a cappella either together or in sub-groups of three or four. Mostly, though, the musical language is built upon repetition: short phrases that follow the auditor through changing acoustics as we progress from elevators to open lounges, along wood-panel corridors onto deep-pile carpets, in a dynamically realised sound picture by David Sheppard.
Welton and Hall's narrative thread is so light it could snap at any minute, but in truth it's only there as dramatic sellotape. The mood's the thing, plus the novelty of going walkabout not in some abandoned warehouse but in the kind of living, breathing hotel that few of us (I speak for myself here) would normally have the wherewithal to visit. I particularly enjoyed a trip to the boiler room with its chaotic array of pipes and conduits, an alien world where music mixed with hissing technology. But perhaps that's just me.
If only Found and Lost didn't take itself quite so seriously. As each 12-strong batch of spectators is led on an angsty, stately parade to an unremittingly solemn musical accompaniment, it's enough to turn the most ardent Punchdrunker self-conscious. On we strutted, set-faced and earnest, garnering sideways looks from passing porters and giggly sous-chefs, until in the basement I spotted a sign that said "Welcome to Housekeeping - Don't forget to smile". So I did. Win.
Found and Lost plays at the Corinthia Hotel until 3 February