Melodrama and plonk love potions: L'Elisir D'Amore

Laurent Pelly's revival production of Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore at the Royal Opera is an early Christmas present full of some fine singing performances and comic turns. The piece moves abruptly from comedy to tenderness and the performers handle this so believably that you find yourself completely drawn into this world of small town unrequited love and quack doctors administering love potions.

Roberto Alagna plays the farm worker Nemorino who yearns for the love of Adina, played by Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. Alagna tackles the role with bounding enthusiasm as he throws himself over haystacks and rips off his clothes revealling some very nice y-fronts and a tanned physique that suggests all that physicality has been paying off. Of course he sounds great too as the simple farm worker who constantly tries for the affection of Adina. Kurak manages to balance what could be an unsympathetic screechy character with one that is tender and nuanced, and reveals early on her soft spot for her farm hand. Both are wonderful to watch. Giving the piece some of the best laughs is Ambrogio Maestri as the quack who offers up a love potion for Nemorino to win over his woman. His performance is a delightful combination of clear singing, comic timing and a hint of vulgarity that ensured his time on stage was greeted with laughs and applause.

This production updates the action to the countryside of 1950s Italy with some giant haystacks, endless fields and a dog that darts across the stage so quickly that you don't have time to contemplate the meaning of it. It is an opportunity to draw inspiration from post-war Italian style and is so beautiful to look at it is hard to be bother or care whether the change works of not...

Conducted by Bruno Campanella there are a two more performances this week (Tuesday and Friday) before this run ends. It is all good fun...


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