At times embarrassing and in part endearing, First Night is a British comedy that attempts to bring Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte to life on the big screen. That's been done before in 1996 Australian film Cosi which was set in a mental hospital. This one takes place in a country pile belonging to wealthy industrialist Sir Adam Drummond (Grant). He's had a life-long ambition to sing the role of Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte so he stages a private production. He hires young director Philip (Oliver Dimsdale) who wants to create a "kinetic" opera involving choreography, a cast of up-and-coming singers (including Mia Maestro and Julian Ovenden) and a conductor he'd like to seduce (Phantom of the Opera's Brightman) among others.
The story follows the frenetic three weeks the group has to pull this show together. Cue rehearsals and off-stage machinations where life begins to imitate art. Almost everyone pairs up and breaks up thanks to a series of laboured misunderstandings - such as an innocent massage behind a closed door being mistaken for sex, and a silly bet that the leading man can bed his co-star before opening night.
First Night doesn't feature the whole opera but there is plenty of wonderful singing by the opera pros in the cast - though true opera fans may not be quite so satisfied with this rather twee, incomplete adaptation. There's just enough charm to keep you hoping that opening night goes well, but First Night feels like a missed opportunity. It's not until near the end that the cast gel and it suddenly becomes easier to laugh at and cope with their cliched lines, childish antics and Brightman's constant girly grin. But it's still a clunky attempt at blending opera and comedy on screen.
Cast: Richard E. Grant, Sarah Brightman
Director: Christopher Menaul
Running time: 116 mins
Rating: M (sex scenes, offensive language and nudity)
Verdict: Off-key opera comedy