Donizetti's Opera is Pure Pleasure


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better – it does.

For with their production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’ amore or The Elixir of Love, Opera North have gone for gold – and achieved it.

Taking an opera out of its original era can often have a negative or detrimental effect on the production and performance. However Daniel Slater has achieved the optimum of perfection by catapulting Opera North’s production of L’elisir d’amore or The Elixir of Love forward into the 1950’s.

The opera is slick, vibrant and when the curtain rises bursts forward in a flood of sunshine with a set so skilfully designed by Robert Innes Hopkins depicting a sea front vista with palm trees, a terrace and an inviting small hotel exterior somewhere on the coast of Italy. Immediately it has the effect of lifting ones spirits and radiating a feeling of warmth and intimacy. I knew immediately this was something I was going to enjoy.

I am no stranger to this work having seen it many times including the 1983 Opera North production as part of my introduction to opera! But the 50’s fashions and style, the comedic approach and the hunks on Lambrettas certainly put the ultimate spin on Donizetti’s work for me.

For the chorus of Opera North this is one of their pinnacles of superb achievement. They have made this their very own epicentre of characterization. From priests, sun worshippers, fashionistas, ladies who lunch, artists, doctors, a peasant granny, the crème de la crème of society, a sugar daddy and his bimbo blonde nurse are just a few of the characters that the chorus portray superbly from the top of their perfectly coiffured wigs to the tips of their most appropriate vintage footwear.
And I couldn’t write any review without mention of the wonderful portrayal of the inebriated ladies in Act11 -a real triumph.

The Elixir of Love is pure operatic farce. But in this production the characters do not just rely on situation or plot, they sink deep into their characters creating their own individual masterpieces.

Jung Soo Yun as Nemorino, who I have only ever seen in serious roles, was brilliant, adjusting so easily to the physical comedy of the role and with such wonderful facial expressions that said it all. Fflur Wyn as Giannetta was wonderfully feisty and again proved how versatile a performer she is.

Duncan Rock’s womanising Belcore was just as it should be – real eye candy with a great physique and charm oozing from every inch of him. Putting the normally uniformed soldiers in white tropical naval uniforms arriving on Lambrettas certainly was a masterly touch.

But the bar was raised with the arrival of Doctor Dulcamara in an hot air balloon. Richard Burkhard’s characterization was amazing not only in voice but in interpretation, style and comedy timing and what a wonderful mover he is!

Conductor Tobias Ringborg moves the score at a cracking pace and keeps rigid control of both singers and orchestra in an expert way.

To say The Elixir of Love is a real tonic is a bit of a cliché but its got a tremendous feel good factor that comes across the footlights. When you leave the theatre you feel as if you’ve been on holiday to a small seaside resort in Italy and I guarantee you’ll want to go back there again!

Liz Coggins


To March at Leeds Grand Theatre  then touring.


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