By Milan Perera, Second Year English
‘L'elisir d'amore- The elixir of love, is the opera that everyone should see, as a first opera’, mused Vittorio Grigolo, the Italian tenor who sang the titular role in the 2015 production of L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House. What’s not to like about it? Sinuous music, memorable arias with vocal gymnastics, naïve romance with comedic elements, the list goes on.
Opera Bristol are proud to present their Spring production of L’elisir d’amore after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. They are back with a bold and brilliant production of one of the most popular operas of the repertoire. Charlotte Monk’s acclaimed production of Donizetti’s opera radiates tenderness, sunshine and West Country humour.
The opera’s premiere in Milan in 1832 was a soaring triumph which sealed Donizetti’s reputation as one of the greatest opera composers of the day. Charlotte Monks’ production relocated Donizetti’s comic opera to a present-day West Country based stables and country clubs.
The story revolves around Nemorino, a lowly stable hand and his wealthy landowner, Adina. Nemorino is hopelessly in love with Adina, although she spurns his attention with cruel put downs. Captain Belcore who is the captain of the local polo club arrives at the stables and immediately fixes his gaze on Adina, much to the chagrin of poor Nemorino. Into this pervasive atmosphere of latent eroticism walks in Dr. Dulcamara, an itinerant quack doctor who claims to have cures for all ailments. Nemorino inquires the doctor if he has any potion that might make someone (Adina, in this case) fall for him. Dulcamara sells an ordinary bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a suitcase (a subtle reference to ‘Partygate’ saga, no doubt). The action moves at breakneck pace. Captain Belcore has everything taken care of for his impending nuptials to Adina. But is it too late for Nemorino? Can he still win the heart of the lady of his dreams?
All the stage busyness was cleverly co-ordinated and orchestrated while the tea party with summer dresses was a delight to the senses on a cold night where the mercury remained firmly at single digits. Oliver Chubb was the hapless Nemorino, his tenor voice was strong and forthright - each word sounded out like a freshly minted coin. ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ or ‘One furtive tear’ has been the preserve of tenor soloists from Enrico Caruso to Lawrence Brownlee. Chubb’s rendition of Donizetti’s evergreen showpiece was repleting with warmth and technical brilliance as the protagonist is pining away for his love interest.
His nemesis, Captain Belcore, was sung with bluster and panache by Timothy Allen. Sophie Kirk-Harris portrayed the sassy and beguiling Adina to a tee. Her sound was bright, her phrasing was graceful. She sang the technically demanding coloratura soprano role with aplomb. Dr. Dulcamara was played with ease by William Stevens where he perfectly captured the personal magnetism and the quick wit of the quack doctor.
The English translation by Graham Billing has never lost the sparkle of the original libretto. It was further embellished with the infusion of contemporary idioms and colloquialism which is a testament to the timeless quality of this masterpiece by Donizetti.
Arne Kovac, the musical director at Opera Bristol conducted proceedings for the evening with the panache and finesse that was required. The orchestral sound was warm and lucid, like the sunshine of Southern Italy.
The 1532 Performing Arts Centre may not have been graced with the ornate Neo-Classical gilded columns of La Scala, Milan, but the raucous standing ovation at the curtain call was a testament to the stellar quality of the production. The show-stopping performance was bold and brilliant, keeping the audience thoroughly entertained throughout.
Featured Image: Milan Perera | Epigram
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