Adam (Richard E. Grant) is a rich industrialist and frustrated opera singer aspiring to a more cultured world. Spurred on by playful jibes that he's just a City suit living a capitalist dream he decides to stage an opera in his lavish country retreat. He feels sure the shallow taunting will end once his friends see him in full voice. In tact his singing might even help him win the hand of Celia (Sarah Brightman) the female conductor he's been pursuing, especially since she is the first to be recruited for his showpiece.
If you want to watch shenanigans by rich people immersing themselves in love and their favorite opera, ‘First Night’ is for you. In it industrialist Adam (Richard E. Grant) stages Mozart’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ to show off his operatic skills and even impress an old flame and his conductor Celia (theater superstar Sarah Brightman.) As the film progresses, the opera’s storyline bleeds into real life as its cast mates Tom (Julian Ovendean) and Nicoletta (Mia Maestro) suddenly find themselves a reflection of Adam and Celia.
Directed by Christopher Menaul, ‘First Night’ was a project he also co-wrote with Jeremy Sams, and their intention was obvious – how about making an opera ‘hip’ again? Let’s do it a la Shakespeare’s comedy with a pinch of ‘Love Actually’, shall we? A for effort but it’s not as stellar as you think.
Their pomp and circumstance do not excuse them from idiocy especially when it comes to love. Richard E. Grant and Sarah Brightman are the veteran actors here and they exude more chemistry and spunk than their younger contemporaries in Julian Ovendean and Mia Maestro. Ovendean the cad and Maestro the ice queen don’t exactly sizzle on screen. You’d want to root for Grant and Brightman instead. Maybe that’s the point: experience trumps youth sometimes too.
How about the music? The opera itself has already been pre-produced with professional singers; the actors just lip-sync to it. How much more interesting if real opera singers were cast, don’t you think? You can’t beat the locations too.
As a comedy, however, it can work. It’s like a diluted version of a Merchant Ivory film. The posh are too bored that they complicate their already set and yet fabulous lives. ‘First Night’ is an undertaking worth looking at. Whether or not you could stand to watch it till the end is debatable. But for Richard E. Grant and Sarah Brightman alone, you should give it a try.