Glyndebourne, East Sussex; Oxford; Wexford, Ireland
A silly but delightful staging of Mesdames de la Halle is an Offen-ready treat, while haunting lieder and free transportation to Ireland’s National Opera House are not to be missed
Mirth being the great healer, no joke of the mask-gloves-sanitiser variety was left unturned in Glyndebourne’s staging of Offenbach’s comedy, Mesdames de la Halle. Wittily reworked by Stephen Plaice and renamed In the Market for Love, Stephen Langridge’s deft production was seen, by a few, outside in Glyndebourne’s gardens in the summer. With essentially the same cast, this one-act “bouffe” has returned for a brief autumn season, winning a chuckling reception from a socially distanced audience happy to be back inside the theatre, hearing an ensemble of voices on stage and the 18-strong Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra in the pit.
No greater care could have been taken, artistically under the baton of conductor Ben Glassberg or in terms of protecting everyone involved for the 75-minute show. It’s the silliest of stories: three lusty women (sung by three lusty men) are being courted by the whiskery drum-major, Raflafla, but their eyes are on the hot young chef Harry (sung by a woman) who already has a girlfriend, the orphan Ciboulette (sung by a woman). Gags are tautly handled, with barely time to turn stale. The designs are a flotsam-jetsam jumble with plenty of fruit and veg, and bright clothes, to create a lively mood. The Police Inspector (bass Matthew Rose, amusing in his pompous sobriety) blows his whistle at any sign of up-too-close transgression. Touch is avoided by a repertoire of clever routines – a false, extending hand; much play with long vegetables; a trio of beadles in high-vis jackets. All culminates in a mutual foot-waggling session by the young lovers in place of a happy-ending kiss.