Tobias and the Angel, English Touring Opera, St John's Church, London
By David Murray
Published: September 16 2004 03:00 | Last updated: September 16 2004 03:00
The composer Jonathan Dove may have called his Tobias, now touring cathedrals and churches, a "church opera", like some of Britten's, to capitalise similarly on ecclesiastical appeal (trendy English churches love to host artistic events with pious airs); but the story - wittily filleted by David Lan from the Apocryphal Book of Tobit - comes from an ancient Hebraic past and is no sacred lesson for anybody now.
A saintly Stranger figures large, as do the demon Asmodeus and a sinister magic fish, as Tobit and his son Tobias run into problems ("when Tobias wakes, birds defecate in his eyes and he becomes blind") that take time to resolve. The scenario and the music further accommodate lusty bouts of "communal" involvement: all-singing, all-dancing, with a lot of keen, exuberant children - good, bracing fun for the whole interval-less 70 minutes. The conductor Tim Murray sounded enthusiastically committed.
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