Scottish Opera - Menotti: The Telephone - The Times

We can’t go to the Edinburgh International Festival this year, so the EIF has come to us. 

The best of the music offerings is also the smallest. Just 25 minutes long and involving only two singers on camera, Scottish Opera’s production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone is a little comic gem. Ben (Jonathan McGovern) is desperately trying to get the attention of his girlfriend (Soraya Mafi) off her mobile phone so that he can propose to her before his train leaves for London.

Of course, when the Italian-American Menotti wrote the piece, in New York in 1947, the eponymous telephone was a clumpy black object attached by wires to a wall. It’s reassuring, in a funny sort of way, to know that it exerted the same tyrannical control over people 70 years ago as our smartphones do today. And although Evans slightly updates the concept, with text messages flashing on screen, the conceit remains solid.

What hasn’t worn so well — despite delectable singing and acting from Mafi and McGovern — is the typically 1940s American characterisation of the woman as a ditzy, gossip-obsessed scatterbrain, and the man as a dependable, patient rock. Menotti’s score, however, is well worth revival. Pungent, witty and almost indecently tuneful, it was superbly played here by the Scottish Opera Orchestra under Stuart Stratford.

The Times
10 August 2020