North East & YorkshireOperaReview

L’elisir d’amore – Grand Theatre, Leeds

Music: Gaetano Donizetti

Director: Daniel Slater

Choreographer: Tim Claydon

Conductor: Tobias Ringborg

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Donizetti’s romantic comedy L’elisir d’amore premiered in Milan in 1832 and was first performed by Opera North at the Leeds Grand in 1983, also where the first showing of this production took place in 2000.

Daniel Slater, who previously worked with Opera North on The Bartered Bride and Manon Lescaut, directs a revival that is a triumphant tour de force on so many levels. Firstly, the leads are simply superb. Gabriela Iştoc as Adina is both sexy and chic matching a pitch-perfect vocal performance with real dynamic dramatic poisewhile Iştoc really makes the role all her own and is capable of relating a wide range of emotions with subtlety.

Jung Soo Yun presents Nemorino with a suitably confused and conflicted comedic act, but has moments of real spurned-lover melancholy too, depending on how much of the elixir (read – cheap Bordeaux) he has down him. Soo Yun shines on his part, both as a figure of fun and also a lesson on the nature of love and the folly it can cause – but essentially the audience warms to him, laughing with, not at him.

Duncan Rock (Marcello in last year’s La Boheme) as the bragging, boastful bully Belcore, is utterly believable and quack doctor Dulcamara is played with wit and whimsy by Richard Burkhard (last year’s Figaro). Burkhard at one point even seems to believe his own medicine can work wondersthough in fact his fraudulence is self-evident.

The 1950s design by Robert Innes Hopkins is to die for, replete with Vespas for the naval officers and a hot air balloon for Dulcamara’s dramatic entrance. The costumes are straight out of a Fellini film, and Simon Mill’s lighting really conjures up the sense of a Mediterranean coastal town.

Swedish conductor Tobias Ringborg returns to Opera North, where he has recently conducted performances of Puccini’s La bohème (2010), Mozart’s Don Giovanni (2012) and Verdi’s Macbeth (2014), and provides an absolutely awesome backing to this scintillating and sensational show.

All of this combined really comes together as a magical match for Opera North’s winter season of Andrea Chenier and Cosi fan tutte, with all three productions looking at the nature of love and loyalty, albeit in very different and diverse ways. And now, we can look forward to the company’s presentation of The Ring Cycle which will no doubt be a treat for Wagner fans and newcomers alike.

Touring until 17 March 2016 | Image: Robert Workman

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