Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach are two of the most grand, well-known composers of the 18th century but they also had frivolous, comic sides. In Double Trouble, Endangered Productions brings together two short operas to laugh at some of the unchanged tropes of humour and human nature.
Written when Mozart was just 12-years-old, Bastien & Bastienna tells the story of a troubled couple and the sneaky tricks they play on each other to prove their love and devotion. Bastien (Damien Hall) is a bit of a two-timer, seen out on the town with another woman (Karen Lambert) while Bastienna (Lesley Braithwaite) seeks guidance from Freud devotee Dr Colas (Ed Suttle) on how best to hold on to her man. Unsurprisingly, deception and misunderstanding ensue.
Translated by Christine Logan and Peter Alexander, this rendition of the opera was a classic romantic comedy with the added twist of a few jabs at psychoanalysis and the gullibility of people in love. The production design with set by Sandy Gray and lighting by Michael Schell made good use of the limited furniture options by incorporating a projection screen on which cityscapes and psychedelic images led the audience through the characters’ inner and outer surrounds.
In Bach’s piece Coffee Cantata, the plot continued on similar themes of women demanding agency from the men in their lives. This time the young daughter (Lesley Braithwaite) wants her father (Ed Suttle) to stop nagging her about marriage and leave her to her own devices. Director Christine Logan reimagines this silly opera set in a cafe and full of devotion for the miracle drink coffee in a bar with the daughter waxing lyrical about espresso martinis instead. Costuming by Miriam Lohmann also brought the cantata into the 21st century with a rebellious punk aesthetic for Braithwaite and a stuffy hat and tie for Suttle.
The accompanying musicians with Stevie Walter on keyboard, Isabeau Hansen on flute, Rebecca Irwin and Jennifer Taylor on violin, Greg Ford on viola, and Pierre Emery on cello provided a delightful musical backing to the antics onstage, particularly with Walter’s versatile keyboard lending weight to the opposing wills in the Coffee Cantata.
The two operas were short, simple romantic comedies with predictable plots that reveal interesting insights into the unchanged story comforts we’ve sought out for centuries. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? But there is charm to be found in simplicity and the performances by Braithwaite and Hall, in particular, were bright and cheery, whereas Suttle added a warm gruffness, especially as the hassling father figure. People and our stories haven’t changed a lot since Mozart and Bach’s time which is reassuring at the very least.
Double Trouble ran from June 18th – 20th at Customs House.
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