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15th April 2016

Review: L’elisir d’amore

The Opera North’s light-hearted take on a perennial Italian masterpiece arrives with all the optimism of the 1950s set in which it is packaged

Navigating your way around the opera genre may seem daunting, yet Daniel Slater’s adaptation most definitely confirms that it is something to be enjoyed among a range of audiences. This production, having enjoying an excellent reception since 2001, returns to The Lowry with a retro twist in 2016. Complete with sleek Vespas, hot air balloons and an ocean summer breeze, Robert Innes Hopkins gives a taste of la dolce vita with an eye-catching set design.

L’elisir d’amore, literally ‘The Elixir of Love’ in Italian, is a whimsical update on the opera buffa genre, designed originally as an upbeat comedy for nineteenth century audiences. This performance is a story of the loveable underdog Nemorino, played by Jung Soo Yun, who falls madly in love with the beautiful Adina in an impressive portrayal by the Romanian soprano Gabriela Iştoc. Appearing self-assured and indifferent to Nemorino’s sincerity, Adina is instead initially swept off her feet by the accomplished Belcore (Duncan Rock), who rivals the luckless waiter as he arrives in style on a vintage Vespa. And so, inspired by the love potion in the tale of Tristan und Isolde, Nemorino looks for help from a swindling quack doctor, played by Richard Burkhard. Duped with a cheap bottle of alcohol instead of a bonafide love potion, Slater’s production features an amusing skit of inebriated partygoers in which Adina eventually realises her true feelings for the other.

Although largely a stranger to opera myself, I was pleasantly surprised to recognise the rendition of ‘Una Furtive Lagrima’, ‘A Furtive Tear’ in Italian—a melody loved by none other than Pavarotti himself and movingly delivered by Jung Soo Yun. Have no fear if you haven’t had the chance to brush up on your language skills, this performance does a splendid job in Britalian; the actors perform in English but sing in Italian with English subtitles.

The musical accompaniment was seamlessly conducted by Tobias Ringborg, and responded accordingly to the range of emotions exhibited in the vocals of the cast. Operatically speaking, the performance was sung in a bel canto style, its purpose being to exhibiting the splendour of the human voice. Often left unsupported by the orchestra, their voices resonated beautifully as all of the vocalists displayed a mastery of a challenging style, while managing to remain faithful to the liveliness of the play itself.

Opera North will return between the 13th and 18th June of the summer season, this time with a four-part adaptation series of the Richard Wagner epic music dramas—collectively known as Die Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Series).

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