the sofa / the departure Sadler's Wells london *****
When a work gets a smart premiere followed by decades of oblivion, it is usually for a good reason. So it is all the more surprising that Elizabeth Maconchy's one-acters, The Sofa and The Departure, should prove to have such fresh and timeless appeal. And it's appropriate that Independent Opera should choose Maconchy's centenary year to exhume them at Sadler's Wells, since this is where they saw the light of day in, respectively, 1959 and 1962.
Born in Broxbourne and tutored by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maconchy came of age as a composer in Prague, where her piano Concertino was premiered by Erwin Schulhoff, and the music of Janacek got under her skin. Chamber music was her thing, and she came late to opera. The Sofa has a crazy plot: a rich young rake is turned, by his witch-grandmother, into a sofa, in which guise he is condemned (literally) to support the seduction of his girlfriend.
The party that the director Alessandro Talevi and designer Madeleine Boyd devise as the framework for this event is very Noughties Hoxton, as are its louche denizens. …