The composer Jonathan Dove may have called his Tobias, now touring cathedrals and churches, a "church opera", like some of Britten's, to capitalise similarly on ecclesiastical appeal (trendy English churches love to host artistic events with pious airs); but the story - wittily filleted by David Lan from the Apocryphal Book of Tobit - comes from an ancient Hebraic past and is no sacred lesson for anybody now.
A saintly Stranger figures large, as do the demon Asmodeus and a sinister magic fish, as Tobit and his son Tobias run into problems ("when Tobias wakes, birds defecate in his eyes and he becomes blind") that take time to resolve. The scenario and the music further accommodate lusty bouts of "communal" involvement: all-singing, all-dancing, with a lot of keen, exuberant children - good, bracing fun for the whole interval-less 70 minutes. The conductor Tim Murray sounded enthusiastically committed.
With eight excellent principals, too many to praise, the story was brightly told, fluently sung, and staged by John Fulljames with lively imagination. Not one voice sounded anything but easy and comfortable with Dove's lines, as if they were tailor-made. Dove is no "modernist" (though I suspect he could be, if he so chose); practically, he restricts his idiom to pop and musical comedy and within those pleasant limits he finds shapely nuances for each character and every situation.
It may be "commercial" but it works, and not just as pastiche. His orchestration always betrays a fine ear and his musical dramaturgy is expert. I enjoyed hearing Tobias and the Angel though I probably will not buy the CD. Tel 020 7833 2555