It isn’t often that I turn up to a Saturday morning show for under-3s – all buggy parking and parents meeting up congenially – to be moved to tears by sheer beauty of the piece within five minutes of its starting. But that’s what happened at Over the Moon. Staged at Half Moon Theatre and subtitled “an opera for little people” it is utterly exquisite.
Three performers Sarah Forbes (soprano), Catherine Carter (Mezzo) and Jenny Gould (piano) explore a day from getting up in the morning to finally going to sleep again at night – with a lot of sleeps in between because that’s what very young children recognise.
It was the Monteverdi duet – immaculately sung even though Forbes and Carter were flat on the floor when they started it – which got me first, coming as soon as it did after Hey Diddle Diddle. Yes, the music in this little (40 minute) show is as colourful and eclectic as the feathers, sheets and pieces of gauze which litter the stage and act as props during the singing. By the time we reached the gorgeous duet from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel whatever it was that was in my eye had grown rather large.
Part of the reason it’s so moving is that it’s interactive and tiny audience members are encouraged to join in – and they did so very enthusiastically at the performance I saw. And to see a child of, say eight months, sitting up listening acutely to a bit of Ravel or Debussy is quite something.
Of course it only works as well as it does because of the quality of performance. Both Carter and Forbes sing beautifully but gently so there’s nothing remotely abrasive or “operatic” in their voices. They also – Forbes in particular – have developed a knack of smiling warmly at the end of each phrase which must take a lot of practice. Gould who sometimes sings as well as plays and chips into the action, is a very relaxed pianist who makes all the music feel approachable.