Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Book: Felice Romani based on Le Philtre by Eugène Scribe
Director: Daniel Slater
Conductor: Tobias Ringborg
Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
Originally performed in 2000 this revival of L’elisir d’amore is brimming with joy, wit and charisma. Written in 1832, Director Daniel Slater has brought this production into the 20thCentury and has set it in 1950s Italy, which perfectly compliments the opera’s themes of love and celebration.
The opera begins with the poor and affable Nemoriono (Jung Soo Yun) who confesses his love for the witty and sophisticated Adina (Gabriela Iştoc). She is reading Tristan and Isolde and explains to the crowd how their love was inflamed by a special potion. Then the charismatic Captain Belcore (Duncan Rock) and his men storm the stage on Vespas, whereupon he promptly attempts to sweep Adina off her feet. Being such a wise woman she is not quick to accept him, however, Nemorino can’t help but notice that neither has she refused him. He implores to her but she explains that it is simply her nature and that she will not love him. Then, another stranger arrives, this time, Dulcamara who quite literally drops in by way of a huge hot air balloon. This seller of miracle cures claims he has solutions for all ills. Nemorino, inspired by the story of Tristan and Isolde asks if he has any love potions. Dulcamara quickly improvises and claims he has just the thing and promptly sells Nemorino an old bottle of wine, which he drinks with gusto all for the love of Adina.
The beautiful set and costumes, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, give the feeling that the audience has stepped into a Jack Vettriano painting. The bold colours and classic 1950s fashion make for a feast for the eyes. The eye is drawn all around the stage and there’s always something new to discover. The chorus is used brilliantly, each member has a clear identity and character. They make a very believable community. The action takes place outside the bar of the hotel Adina and a warm glow, provided by lighting designer Simon Mills perfectly emulates a hot Italian summer. Unfortunately, a lengthy set change in the middle of both acts does disrupt the flow.
Yun as Nemorino executes a well-plotted character arc. At first stroppy and petulant when he rebuffed by Adina (perhaps too infantile). Then, once he has found confidence from his ‘magic potion’ becomes a hilarious drunken fool. Finally, in Act Two, his new found self esteem and affection sees him become a very believable romantic lead. Vocally brilliant throughout his Una fertiva lagrima is sublime. Iştoc is exquisite as Adina. Sophisticated, witty, sexy and charming she is glorious in the role. Vocally stunning, during her final aria, you could have heard a pin drop. She is bold enough to bring her performance right down and drawn the audience in, the whole auditorium is invited in. Rock is a majestic Belcore. His warm vocal tone is juxtaposed with his brash and appropriately flashy characterisation. Richard Burkhard takes the role of Dulcamara by the horns and never misses and opportunity for laughs. His earthy bass is perfectly poised and he is well supported by the young Freddie Butterfield.
This production is visually and aurally stunning and at two-and-a-half hours is just right for this theatrical holiday. Completely charming and well worth a look.
Reviewed on 17March 2016 | Image: Contributed