Reviewed by Jayne Wiggins
The Glyndebourne Tour brings romantic comedy to Milton Keynes this month with Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisir D’Amore – The Elixir of Love. Though my Italian couldn’t stretch to ordering a pizza, the subtly placed subtitles mean everyone in the audience can enjoy the story without a grasp of the language (though the acting of the performers means this is one opera the audience can appreciate without any of the language traps!).
Set in a 19th Century Italian village, the landowner Adina knows how she is adored by the peasant Nemorino, yet she toys with him rather relentlessly in Act 1. Sehoon Moon was perfectly cast as the love struck Nemorino, with a performance quality leaving the audience pitying the young Nemorino as he bundles through his unrequited love for Adina. Moons’ vocals were gentle and engaging, with edge of the seat laments!
Benedetta Torre plays an aloof Adina who’s learned reading of Tristan And Isolde, leads Nemorino to the idea of a love potion to win her heart. The quest for love is brought about quicker after the arrival of Sergeant Belcore – played by the talented Matthew Durkan – who quickly proposes to Adina leaving Nemorino forlorn and desperate.
With the arrival of the charlitan Dr Dulcamara and his comic jester, the scene is set for a comic love battle between the ill matched peasant and the arrogant Belcore. Spending what little money he has, Nemorino begs the fraudster Dulcamara for a potion to make Adina love him. More than happy to take his money, Dulcamara has a wine decanted into his potion bottle and persuades Nemorino that if he should wait until tomorrow (enough time for the fraudster to leave town!) then upon drinking the potion, Nemorino’s love would be returned.
Dulcamara is played by the charismatic Misha Kiria with a larger than life performance leaving me ready to buy the potion myself! His assistant is played by the very talented Maxime Nourissat who brings the greatest comedy to the show through mime and makeup.
Though Adina has shrugged off Nemorino’s love, she comes to realise that she might actually have feelings for him too. She accepts Belcore’s proposal, only to make Nemorino jealous. In what could have become a romantic tragedy, Nemorino is trying to play Adina’s own came of acting aloof, though she misinterprets this as indifference and plans to go ahead with the wedding.
The love story starts to climax as Belcore is advised that his soldiers are to return to battle the following day! Adina agrees to bring the wedding forward to today, leaving Nemorino no time to wait for his potion. Drinking it all he is fuelled by love (or a good red wine!) and starts to toy with the other village ladies in his quest to make Adina jealous, yet he still sees the wedding plans going ahead and his love for Adina lost. Upon returning to the Dr Dulcamara for more potion, he is left desperate as he is penniless and can not buy the potion.
Belcore snatches the opportunity to be rid of his love rival by persuading him to sign into the army in return for money to buy his elixir. In the mean time the village women, led by Gianetta, have learned that Nemorino’s uncle has died, leaving nemorino a vast fortune (there was a cast change to Giannetta who was played by the exceptional Chloe Morgan).
Fuelled with wine, and oblivious to his inheritance, Nemorino is certain the elixir has worked as the village women fall over themselves to impress him. Adina, discovering that he has taken of Dulcamara’s potion, realises that Nemorino really does love her. Realising that she loves him in return, Adina buys Nemorino out of the army, Dulcamara boasts that his potion has done everything it was asked for and Belcore returns to form, declaring that there are thousands of women for him! The young Nemorino is now a rich man of the correct standing to be with the land owner Adina.
Whilst much is emphasised of the voices in opera, the casting can often be misjudged and ill thought out, not in this opera! The Glyndebourne cast hit the perfect mix of high standard voices, acting and performance perfection, comic timing and character looks. The creative team put together an imaginative set to pull the audience into 19th century Italy with ease and modesty.
The live orchestra is to be commended for a spotless performance, adding to the excitement in the theatre. The comic music, the gentle solos, the mournful sets, performed live – are an honour to hear and a credit to this touring company.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Glyndebourne’s L’Elisir D’Amore is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 12-14 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ