Il mondo della luna

Whether in the original Italian or in translation, the opera is something of a rarity. Goldoni’s original dialogue is very much brought up to date and Haydn’s leisurely score has been discreetly pruned, especially where the recitative passages are concerned. What’s left is great fun, very well sung but not perhaps especially memorable.

The Mister Fixit protagonist (Ecclitico) is a tenor role; Andy Morton’s revels in both the machinations of the bogus astrologer seeking to win the daughters of an elderly miser for himself and his friend Ernesto and in the genuine passion of his main aria.Hakan Vramsmo is Ernesto, so determined to win his Flaminia in spite of financial and social considerations and showing it in both his first act aria and third act duet. The singers throughout deal attractively with ornamentation; it’s in period but not excessive.

Flaminia is the main heroine, a little more docile than her sister but still a character in her own right. Lara Martins makes much of her entrance aria and is convincing in the duet with Ernesto which precedes the finale. Katie Bird’s Clarice is a more adventurous young woman, prepared to accept the unexpected. The pert (and perky) servant Lisetta gives Kate Flowers a series of dramatic and vocal opportunities which she seizes with the appropriate gusto.

Colin Morris has the buffo role of Buonafede – just the name of the miser tells you that his chances of acting in good faith towards anyone at any time are pretty remote. I did find his endless repetition of the catch-phrase “you cannot be serious!” a trifle wearisome but both vocally and histrionically he delights the audience, even its very youngest members. There’s a lot of Sam Weller in Alexander Anderson-Hall’s portrait of Cecco, revelling in being transformed into the Emperor of the Moon in the second act.

Set designer Elroy Ashmore gives us an outline set with formal Palladian arches subverted for the lunar landscape with futuristic flower garlands and piles of shiny white padding. Gabriella Csanyi-Wills throws in some historical references to Rowlandson’s cartoons in her moon clothes for the men (there’s also a touch of pantomime comic) and peels them all off to show simple under-garments for the final scene where everyone stops playing a part.

The eleven-strong chamber ensemble is conducted by Oliver Gooch, who also provides the harpsichord continuo.

Reviewed at the Ryan Theatre, Harrow

– Anne Morley-Priestman