Pretty Yende and Liparit Avetisyan are the Stars of the Future in the Royal Opera’s L’elisir d’amore

28/05/2017

Donizetti, L’elisir d’amore: Soloists, Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra of The Royal Opera House / Bertrand de Billy (conductor), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London 27.5.2017. (JPr)

L'ELISIR D'AMORE_ROH, COBENT GARDEN, Giannetta ;Vlada Borovko, Adina; Pretty Yende, Nemorino; Liparit Avetisyan, Belcore ; Paolo Bordogna, Doctor Dulcamara; Alex Esposito,

The Royal Opera’s L’elisir d’amore (c) Bill Cooper

Cast:

Adina – Pretty Yende
Nemorino – Liparit Avetisyan
Dulcamara – Alex Esposito
Belcore -Paolo Bordogna
Giannetta – Vlada Borovko

Production:

Director – Laurent Pelly
Revival director – Daniel Dooner
Set designer – Chantal Thomas
Costume designer – Laurent Pelly
Associate costume designer – Donate Marchand
Lighting designer – Joël Adam

I am a few months short of my tenth anniversary with this production at Covent Garden and I have been seeing L’elisir d’amore there since 1981 (with Nicolai Gedda and Geraint Evans)? The shades of past singers I have seen and heard seemed to ‘haunt’ me when watching the current revival, though I must immediately explain that I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and it is the perfect antidote (or elixir?) for these troubled times.

Donizetti’s melodrama giocosa has been popular since its 1832 première and its description alludes to a story with some humour rather than being per se a comic opera.  L’elisir gets its laughs from the social mores of a small Italian village where Spring has sprung and love is in the air. Adina owns (or more probably rents) the local farm, her friend Giannetta and a group of peasants are resting and at a distance Nemorino, a young villager, sadly laments he has nothing to offer Adina but love. The farm-workers urge Adina to read the story of Tristan who won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion. Nemorino decides to take another magic elixir sold to him by a quack, Doctor Dulcamara, so that he can win Adina’s heart. In a fit of pique – and merely to spite him – Adina announces her marriage to a swaggering army sergeant. The elixir turns out to be nothing but a cheap claret and –  as in most rom-coms –  despite trials, tribulations and misunderstandings true love wins through in the end. Donizetti’s music is potentially full of charm and the amusing story is timeless.

In 2007 this co-production was new to Royal Opera but had already appeared three times at the Opéra National de Paris where it was first put on in June 2006. It is by the same team- Laurent Pelly, director and costume designer, set designs by Chantal Thomas and lighting by Joël Adam –  whose La Fille du régiment at Covent Garden is much revered.

The prostitute was always an important figure in Italian post-war cinema and this genre – typified by Fellini – is very much the world that Laurent Pelly wants to evoke. Adina comes across very unsympathetically at first and is seen sunning herself on a ziggurat of hay bales as the curtain rises. There is a distinctly French take on Italian peasant life in the production however, and when the braggart sergeant, Belcore, swaggers into the plot with his ‘little and large’ soldier companions it always makes me think I am at ‘Allo ‘Allo-the musical’ watching Captain Bertorelli rather than Belcore. Now that is a reference for those of a certain vintage like me! This odd couple are given suitable girl friends who are the opposite to them in height!

The sets are solidly three-dimensional; including a hay-baler, a tractor, a roadside trattoria, scooters and bicycles, as well as, a huge lorry-load of Dulcamara’s elixir. The passing of time is realised by Joel Adam’s lighting and a background that changes from sun-drenched to starry sky as the day progresses. The big scene change in Act I is accompanied by a front cloth – which I wonder whether Theresa May has seen? – with adverts entertainingly explaining how Doctor Dulcamara’s potion is a cure-all for everything – and I mean everything – and we hear the suitably pastoral sounds of crickets chirping.

Back in 2007 I wrote ‘What L’elisir needs is laughter and tears otherwise what’s the point? I counted only four potentially big laughs when the audience chuckled together rather than individually’ … and one of these was when a fast-moving Jack Russell terrier ran across the stage and then later back!’ Subsequent revivals – this is the fourth – has put the humour back and with Daniel Dooner on duty again the laughter quotient seems to have reached its zenith. This lighter approach stems from 2012 when Roberto Alagna brought his own costumes and performance to the part of Nemorino and appears to have had such a good time with his Adina, Aleksandra Kurzak, that they subsequent became a couple. Nearly all the pictures in the programme are of the Alagnas (or Kurzaks if you prefer) because they will reprise these roles later in this current run. Even if your sense of humour is not the same as mine there is still the Jack Russell, Alfie, rushing back and forth: I challenge anyone not to have a smile on their face when he puts in an appearance.

Rolando Villazón should have been Nemorino in 2007 and should have been singing in this revival but was a no-show both times. A decade ago Stefano Secco was Nemorino and now it was the swarthy Armenian Liparit Avetisyan. He has appeared earlier in the season as Alfredo Germont though I doubt he made as big an impression as he did here. A possible star is born if he gets the correct guidance. He radiated a joy for performing that was infectious. He does physical comedy very well and all the pratfalls, wiggling, dancing and drunkenness was acted with a practiced ease that made him a very engaging Nemorino. His commitment cannot be faulted; he seemed to revel in all the hoisting of haybales, clambering around haystacks and climbing up and down ladders he had to do. His fairly stolid tenor relaxed as he went deeper into the opera and ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ was sublime and a real tearjerker.

It was a fine quartet of principal singers even if they could not entirely exorcise the spirits of those singers of past years. Pretty Yende is making her Royal Opera debut as Adina and if there were any nerves she did not show it in her limpid, sparkling singing. I look forward to hearing her again in a role that might be more challenging. Yende was totally believable as the self-absorbed, flighty, manipulative and sexy Adina who is attracted to Nemorino from the outset, even if she perhaps doesn’t appreciate it. There was an effortless ease to the top of her voice and I love the way this production has the farmworkers and villagers cover their ears for her top notes. Nemorino gets a genuine rival in Paolo Bordogna’s narcissistic Belcore who despite his good looks is over-confident about his own charisma. His is another Royal Opera debut and he sings very well too. In the past some man-mountains such as Ambrogio Maestri and Bryn Terfel have appeared as Dulcamara and with a twinkle in their eye have effortlessly mixed comedy and sleaze. Surely Dulcamara should be a likeable rogue, but with Alex Esposito’s slight figure, shaven head, filthy T-shirt and tattoos the villagers seemed bullied by him and his henchmen into buying his ‘snake oil’. I must make allowances for this strange approach to his character and admit that Esposito was vocally strong.  His patter seemed to be rushed at times during ‘Udite, o rustici’, though he could almost be forgiven all for the amusing sibilant he employs during the Act II ‘Io son ricco, e tu sei bella’. Though she seemed rather swamped by all the other larger-than-life performances the always-reliable Jette Parker Young Artist, Vlada Borovko, was a wholesome and appealing Giannetta. The Royal Opera’s always enthusiastic chorus – some of whom do not appear as young as they once were – created a real farming community and any slight lapses in ensemble between stage and pit will undoubtedly be ironed out in forthcoming performances.

After a rather stodgy overture as if conductor and orchestra were feeling their way through unfamiliar music, Bertrand de Billy led as suitably lithe, well-paced and bucolic account of Donizetti’s life-affirming score.

Jim Pritchard

For more about events at the Royal Opera House (click here).

Iván Fischer’s Fascinating Illumination of Bartók’s Musical Roots

25/05/2017

Bartók: Márta Sebastyén (folk singer) with István Kádár (folk violin), András Szabó (folk viola); Zsolt Fejérvári (folk double-bass), Ildikó Komlósi (mezzo-soprano – Judith); Krisztián Cser (bass – Duke Bluebeard); Budapest Festival Orchestra / Iván Fischer (conductor, speaker). Royal Festival Hall, London, 23.5.2017. (CC) Read more

A Fine Performance of Jephtha

22/05/2017

HandelJephtha: Soloists, Holst Singers, Academy of Ancient Music / Stephen Layton (conductor), St John’s Smith Square, London, 20.5.2017. (CC) Read more

‘Thrillingly Heroic’: Welsh-Language Opera Y Tŵr’s Underplays the Symbolism but the Performances Impress

22/05/2017

Guto Puw, Y Tŵr [The Tower] – first performance: Music Theatre Wales Ensemble / Richard Baker (conductor), Vale of Glamorgan Festival (collaboration between Music Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru), Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 19.5.2017. (PCG)

 Female - Caryl Hughes; Male - Gwion Thomas; Photo credit - Clive Barda.

Y Tŵr Caryl Hughes (Female) Gwion Thomas (Male) (c) Clive Barda

Read more

Ravi Shankar’s Fascinating Sukanya

21/05/2017

Ravi Shankar – Sukanya (completed David Murphy/Anoushka Shankar, world premiere run, semi-staged): Soloists; Aakash Odedra Company (Rukmini Vijahakumar, Sanjukta Sinha, Gauri Diwakar, Gaurav Ghatti, dancers); Pirasanna Thevarajah (ghatam, morsing, mrindangam, konnokol); Rajkumar Misra (tabla); Parimal Sadaphal (sitar); Ashwani Shankar (shehnai); M. Balachandar (mrindangam, konnokol); BBC Singers; London Philharmonic Orchestra / David Murphy (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, 19.5.2017. (CC)

Read more

Even After a Long Evening this Superb Account of Ariodante Leaves One Wanting More

19/05/2017

Handel, Ariodante (semi-staged): Soloists, The English Concert / Harry Bicket (conductor/harpsichord). Barbican Hall, London, 16.5.2017. (CC)

Sonia Prina and Mary Bevan; photo credit - Robert Workman

Sonia Prina (Polinesso) & Mary Bevan (Dalinda) in the ECO’s Ariodante (c) Robert Workman

Read more

Despite An Unimpressive Production Bertrand De Billy and the Royal Opera Deliver a Compelling Don Carlo

15/05/2017

Verdi, Don Carlo: Cast, Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / Bertrand de Billy. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 12.5.2017. (CC)

DC

The Royal Opera’s Don Carlo (c) ROH/Catherine Ashmore

Read more

A Stimulating and Impressive Magic Flute from Mid Wales Opera

11/05/2017

Mozart, The Magic Flute: Soloists and Orchestra of Mid Wales Opera / Jonathan Lyness (conductor), Riverfront Theatre, Newport, 4.5.2017. (GPu)

MWO

Mid Wales Opera The Magic Flute (c) Matthew Williams-Ellis

Read more

« Previous PageNext Page »

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017 Oxford Lieder Festival – The Last of the Romantics __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River Music’s Festival ’17 in Essex __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Opera Completes its Ring with Götterdämmerung __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Bayreuther Festspiele 2017 – Operas, Symposium, Concerts, Cinema and More __________________________________
  • NEW! Summer Music in Cincinnati 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2017 BBC Proms from Friday 14 July – Saturday 9 September __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! The National Theatre Dares You to Engage with This Show __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GREAT CANADIAN ARTISTS: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST JAMES EHNES __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST KIRILL GERSTEIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! IN MEMORIAM LOUIS FRÉMAUX (1921-2017) __________________________________
  • UPDATED IN MEMORIAM NICOLAI GEDDA (1925-2017) __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H