Opera Holland Park 2013 – Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore

L’elisir d’amore – melodramma giocoso in two acts to a libretto by Felice Romani [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Adina – Sarah Tynan
Nemorino – Aldo Di Toro
Belcore – George von Bergen
Dr Dulcamara – Geoffrey Dolton
Giannetta – Rosalind Coad

Opera Holland Park Chorus

City of London Sinfonia
Steven Higgins

Pia Furtado – Director
Leslie Travers – Designer
Colin Grenfell – Lighting designer

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 16 July, 2013
Venue: Opera Holland Park, Kensington, London

Geoffrey Dolton as Dulcamara & Sarah Tynan as Adina (L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park, July 2013). Photograph: Fritz CurzonDonizetti’s delightful comedy comes to Opera Holland Park in a new production that yields bittersweet emotions. Yet whilst L’elisir d’amore is most certainly a comic creation, mixed within it is a heart and soul that makes the characters real rather than silly. Set here on an Italian sunflower farm in the late-1960s during one event-filled day, there is bright-and-breezy action with a heartfelt core. Adina is the sensible face of the farm distributor (her image is plastered on the side of each lorry dominating the stage), and her would-be suitor Nemorino is a whirlwind of activity as the local peasant and numpty who tries anything to woo her. To interrupt this love-struck fool is the dashing figure of Sergeant Belcore and his Lothario squaddies, who crudely show Nemorino how to be a man. It is into this mix that the quack doctor Dulcamara and his cheap-plonk potion enters: a fun figure trying to make some quick money from his dubious ‘elixir of love’.

Sarah Tynan as Adina (L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park, July 2013). Photograph: Fritz CurzonPlenty of material to work with, you would think. But, this staging is rather softly played-out: feelings are cushioned; there is not much momentum to drive a chaotic afternoon (Act One) and evening (Act Two), and what happens does so with a shrug of the shoulders. Steven Higgins’s foursquare conducting made heavy weather of the score, sometimes too loud and detrimental to the singers although he did draw sympathetic playing from the City of London Sinfonia during the emotional arias and duets – more than just a comedy, then – but lighter moments were weighed down.

Sarah Tynan played Adina courteously, a girl who observes and is somewhat prim and haughty. Her assumption of the role was the highlight, the libretto delivered with clarity and accuracy, her voice meltingly beautiful and with a glistening coloratura. The singing from the rest of the cast was mixed. Aldo Di Toro’s Nemorino sparkled occasionally, and ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ was attractive and wonderfully touching, bringing warmth to the character; we did feel sorry for this bumpkin who is hopelessly in love. Di Toro also threw himself into the slapstick. Geoffrey Dolton (in a late change of cast) made much of loveable rogue Dulcamara in both voice and appearance, yet he could not compete during ensembles. More fun is had from the strutting Belcore, George von Bergen handsome in all respects, alternately seductive and forceful. In her few appearances, Rosalind Coad’s Giannetta matched the best of the others and provided feisty relief. L’elisir d’amore is the ideal summer opera, the ideal way to idle away time in frivolity.

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