L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2012

This 2007 Laurent Pelly production is set in 1950s Italy with Dulcamara, the charlatan purveyor of an elixir, arriving in an articulated lorry housing a mobile café. There are also bicycles, a moped and motor scooter, even a dog, giving a charmingly simple feel to the rural community.

In dress rehearsal for this second revival the movements of the supporting cast seemed unnatural, particularly in Act I, but musically it was another matter. Aleksandra Kurzak was a glorious Adina, sexily appealing in her stage presence, and prettily secure in her vocal work. Her Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera (Ask the flattering breeze) in the early duet with Nemorino was charmingly sung with flirtatious body movements.

All images ROH/ Catherine Ashmore

Bruno Campanella conducted with a sure but light touch, and I loved the addition of a motif from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde by Mark Packwood on the fortepiano continuo in Act II. This is after Nemorino appears, having drunk more of Dulcamara’s love potion, but Roberto Alagna in this role rather overplayed things, heaving hay bales and throwing himself to the stage in Act I and lurching around very drunk in Act II. As Dulcamara, Ambrogio Maestri was a joy to watch and hear, particularly having just seen him in a different production live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His duet with Aleksandra Kurzak in Act II was perfection, and Fabio Capitanucci was a fine Sergeant Belcore, interacting well with the rest of the cast.

Forthcoming performances promise to be vocally delightful, but I hope the production comes over more convincingly in Act I. Those cyclists riding from stage right to left, and back again, several times, pretending they are merely passing by, and the man on top of Dulcamara’s vehicle flapping furiously with a cloth to no apparent purpose, were unnecessary distractions. Comments on the staging in later performances are welcome.

Performances continue until December 7 — for details click here.

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