Review: Opera North’s L’elisir d’amore – ‘a magical evening’
The orthodox strategy for a successful staging of Donizetti’s charming comedy L’Elisir d’Amore is to find four competent singers for the lead roles and a good conductor. After that, experience and wisdom has it, there is very little to go wrong. What makes Opera North’s revival of Daniel Slater’s 2001 production so magical is that so many component parts go so very right.
The curtain opens on Robert Innes Hopkins’ stylishly sunny Mediterranean hotel terrace. Nemorino, our engaging, but luckless hero, has the hots for the lovely hotel owner, Adina. Cruelly, she goes out of her way to taunt him, flirting provocatively with the sexy and boastful Sergeant Belcore, who arrives on the scene astride a Vespa no less. Enter, by hot air balloon, travelling quack Dr. Dulcamara. His expensive love potion, the very formula by which Isolde seduced Tristan, instantly fills Nemorino with hope whilst abruptly emptying his pockets. In reality nothing more than a cheap Bordeaux, Nemorino drains the draught and, comforted by the guarantee of its taking effect within 24 hours, sits back and waits for Adina’s chemically-induced change of tune. To her, his sudden intoxicated indifference is the spur to get engaged to Belcore, and when Nemorino remains unfazed, the wedding is brought forward to that very afternoon.
With time now a priceless commodity, the penniless Nemorino enlists in Belcore’s platoon to finance a further elixir purchase. Unbeknown to everyone but the local girls, Nemorino’s uncle has died and left him a fortune. Suddenly, our hero becomes the focus of universal feminine attention. Adina, jealous and jilted, agrees to marry him after all.
Jung Soo Yun sings Nemorino with appropriate passion. He has the role nailed technically and dramatically. His is a most persuasively comic drunkenness and vocally the show-stopping ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (‘A furtive tear’) would make any Adina change her heart. Gabriela Iştoc’s Adina gets most of the coloratura writing, as is Donizetti’s preference. Her looks and voice are equally enchanting and, whether triumphant or vulnerable, she acts with wonderful aplomb.
Duncan Rock’s Belcore is powered by an impressive bulging bravado and his casual, seemingly effortless delivery all helps to make the outcome a very close-run thing.
Completing a very fine quartet, Richard Burkhard’s Dulcamara makes the most of a rare comic role for a bass. The patter songs sparkle, his lyricism charms money from all-comers and his face conveys how a quick-witted opportunist should respond to every twist in an operatic storyline such as this.
Not only the solo arias, but the ensemble pieces are balanced beautifully with conductor Tobias Ringborg’s deft orchestral accompaniment from the pit and Opera North’s chorus skilfully contribute to the spectacle by their individual vignettes and glorious collective sound.
Tim Claydon’s choreography encapsulates the necessary visual humour. Every air-borne grape drops in the mouth, every flying hat is plucked from its flight by a raised walking cane and every unfeasibly high stack of glasses just manages to defy gravity and stay on the tray.
A magical evening.
At Leeds Grand Theatre until 27 February 2016 and touring until 17 March see Opera North website.