L’ Elisir d’Amore | Funny and brilliantly staged

First opera I ever saw live was Strauss’s Elektra at the Royal Opera House. Considering that, I would have been excused if I never wanted to see opera ever again. (It’s long, it’s powerful, it can be daunting but ultimately I found it addictive, probably because I love the Elektra story). Take my advice and if you want to introduce someone to opera don’t risk it. Choose Donizetti’s L’elisir d’Amore instead.

Long story short, I had an extra ticket and through asking around I ended up going with my friend C. Neither of us knew that the other really liked opera. We are both very pleased with the discovery, we can now arrange more of these and gossip during the intervals.

The Royal Opera's L'Elisir d'amore © ROH 2014
The Royal Opera’s L’Elisir d’amore © ROH 2014

So. L’Elisir d’Amore. Simple story, bit of a comedy. Nemorino adores Adina, she scorns him. Enter Dulcamara with this amazing elixir (hence the name). A series of episodes ensues (she tries to make him jealous, he gets an inheritance but doesn’t know about it) to the happy ending. And they lived happily ever after.

During the 50’s and 60’s, the golden years of Greek cinema, there were many comedies with a plot revolving around some sort of mischief or misunderstanding. They were hilarious then and they are hilarious now. This is exactly what L’Elisir d’Amore felt to me. It was familiar, comfortable and funny.

Act I of L'elisir d'amore (C)ROH/Catherine Ashmore, 2007
Act I of L’elisir d’amore (C)ROH/Catherine Ashmore, 2007

The feeling was strengthened due to the brilliant staging – design to remind you of Italy in the 50’s. It was basically, my mum’s village in Northern Greece, complete with a coffee shop with a shed in the back for beer crates and an abandoned motorcycle. At some point, my granddad’s tractor was on stage. I’m telling you, it was uncanny.

Lucy Crowe in L'elisir d'amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014
Lucy Crowe in L’elisir d’amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014

I think it was the first time I was seeing Lucy Crowe on stage. She was lovely as Adina, getting the youthful movement just right, the stubbornness, the love. She was great in her duet with Dulcamara (Bryn Terfel) Io son ricco e tu sei bella.

Bryn Terfel and the cast of L'elisir d'amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014
Bryn Terfel and the cast of L’elisir d’amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014

Huge congrats go to Bryn Terfel of course who portrays Dulcamara as a scoundrel (even the way he walks reinforces this) but somehow a likable one. I just love how his voice worked with Crowe’s.

The funniest by far was Levente Molnár as Belcore, the sergeant who flirts with Adina and she flirts back to make Nemorino jealous. I can’t tell you how many times we were laughing out loudly. And it’s not just because we are noisy Greeks. The rest of the audience was laughing too.

Vittorio Grigolo in L'elisir d'amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014
Vittorio Grigolo in L’elisir d’amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014

It was truly a privilege to see Vittorio Grigolo too. He was in La Traviata too last season (if I’m not mistaken) but I watched that with Francesco Demuro as Alfredo. I’ll have to book a date to see Grigolo next time. I think he would be brilliant in dramatic roles. He was so innocent and tender as Nemorino and the house went nuts over his Una furtiva lagrima.

By the way. Opera has its hits too. In most operas there is an aria (or something) that’s really well-known even outside opera fans (this goes for ballet too, just google the dance of the sugar plum fairy). Una furtiva lagrima is that hit for L’Elisir d’Amore. Found this great video of Grigolo but really, if you really want to appreciate opera I would heartily recommend watching it live.

All in all this was a really, truly enjoyable evening and I would really recommend catching this opera when the Royal Opera stage it again – sadly this was the last show for this season.

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Disclosure: Watched L’Elisir d’Amore on 13 December 2014 and paid for our tickets. No prior discussion with the venue took place.

Main photo: Ole Doc Bell’s Wizard Elixir by Brent Moore, under Creative Commons
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