L'Elisir d'Amore

Fun’n’frolics

House detail, Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italy. Image: Mark Tyson

House detail, Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italy. Image: Mark Tyson

A cool, sunny Autumn day in London; a warm, sunny comedy at the Royal Opera House: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, in Laurent Pelly’s energetic production.

Lucy Crowe was an Adina with a little more bite than usual, helped by a keen comedy swagger and a plangency in her voice, which amply gave to the more thoughtful moments what may have been missing from the farcical. There was no dimming of Terfel’s ebullience in Dulcamara’s daft scenes. Levente Molnár had the Monty Python-esque physical comedy of Belcore in good measure, but could have done with a bit more vocal brilliance to match it. And Vittorio Grigolo… ah well, his puppy-dog over-acting rather suited the role of Nemorino, in fact more than I had expected. Sledgehammers and nuts had come to mind when I contemplated this casting and, indeed, we should gloss over an Una furtiva lagrima which sounded as though written by Giordani, for which Daniele Rustioni in the pit shared the blame. But, that said, his Nemorino won the house over on the basis of vocal heft and force of personality.

Rustioni seemed to me to struggle with some co-ordination between stage and pit here and there, but kept things buoyant. The orchestra played brilliantly; the chorus – on slightly muted form, I thought – framed the action with giddy excitement. The dog did its thing. The sun shone. We all went out smiling.

 

Emerging into the sunshine

After dwelling in the depths of two Ring Cycles in October/November, it was nice to emerge blinking into the warm sunshine of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.  I’d forgotten how much I like it, even if this wasn’t an ideal performance.

I do like Laurent Pelly’s production, a few niggles aside: the wide open spaces don’t help singers’ projection, the business with scooters, trucks, etc. is fun but a little distracting in parts, and quite a lot happens on extremes of the stage. But, all in all, it’s got some verve and liveliness to it and tells the story cleanly.  It’s atmospherically lit and, after Keith Warner’s clumsy Ring, it was nice to be able just to sit back and let the drama wash past, without constantly being reminded of the technical workings of the stage. (more…)

The Elixir d’Amore at Anglo-Italian National Opera

Quite an evening.  One of those that seemed to spell disaster at the beginning, but turned out to be a triumph.

It started with the little slip of paper in the programme.  “John Tessier is unable to sing at tonight’s performance.  The role of Nemorino will be performed by Edgaras Montvidas.”  Then, as the lights went down, the Head of Casting duly trooped on stage.  John Tessier was unwell.  So was his understudy.  Murmurs from the audience.  “Oh, it gets worse,” he helpfully informed us.  The translation was new (more of that later) and no-one in the world knows it.  So Edgaras Montvidas would sing in Italian whilst everyone else sang English.  Oh, and our Belcore (David Kempster) was suffering from a viral infection but would stuggle on.

And that’s even before the curtain went up.

When it did go up, it revealed Jonathan Miller’s new 1950s staging (‘new’ in the sense of only two previous owners: NYCO and Royal Swedish Opera).  Adina’s Diner with a backdrop of wide-vista American horizons, all the men seemingly dressed as mechanics or somesuch.  The diner revolved at different points to reveal the petrol station forecourt into which Dulcamara’s car pulled, or a niche around the back for the  gossiping women alongside the loos.  This provided a bit of comic business in the scene where the women discuss rumours of Nemorino’s inheritance, with an occasional flush between phrases, and one woman emerging with her skirt in her knickers.

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The Elixir of Operatic Delight

Take one Donizetti opera, add an innovative and quite stylish director, throw in a stunning soprano, a jolly good tenor and a few other quality single-malt singers and if you don’t think it’s already an embarrassing feast, you can top it off with a jack russell that runs across the stage at comedy moments…

L’Elisir d’Amore at Covent Garden.  The Pelly production from last year, with new cast.  Set in the 50s, it has the trademark quirks, but is brilliantly executed.  Bicycles, mopeds, a lorry and a tractor wheel onto stage and off again at appropriate moments, ‘driven’ by the cast.  The aforementioned dog does its tricks, and a giant haystack dominates a couple of scenes (to the detriment of vocal projection, but to good atmospheric effect).

Crowning the cast was Diana Damrau.  Just amazing – so characterful, with such fabulous singing – beautiful and spirited in all the right places.  She was a delight to watch and listen to.  The Nemorino, Giuseppe Filianotti, was also tremendously characterful, if the voice was a little strained in places.  He delivered Una Furtiva Lagrima very well, aided by the production’s clever and effective descending ‘forest’ of light bulbs that added the atmosphere.  Anthony Michaels-Moore and Simone Alaimo were a good Belcore and Dulcamara and the whole thing was driven with just the right pace and balance by Bruno Campanella, with an orchestra on fine form (as we have come to expect…!)

I was struck, though, by Eri Nakamura.  I think she’s a Jette Parker Young Artist (or maybe was last year) but she has a voice of wonderful richness, agility and projection.  Would be interested to hear her Rosina, not sure if that’s the direction she’s headed in, but it was a very enjoyable performance of Gianetta this evening…  many best wishes to her for the future, for sure!