Holland Park, London

Classical review: L'elisir d'amore - Plant-food and pesticide make a knock-out elixir

3.00

Holland Park's Donizetti is set on an industrial farm and its hero wears a boiler suit, but the warmth of the singing still melts hearts

In Pia Furtado's production of Donizetti's will-they-won't-they romance, L'elisir d'amore, hero and heroine nurse their seedling love in a modern-day sunflower farm. Two trucks bear the image of Adina (Sarah Tynan), here elevated from landowner to brand-name, while Nemorino (Aldo Di Toro) sighs and stutters in a regulation boiler suit, inarticulate with unrequited love. Roll the years back and you could see the two of them at primary school, the golden girl and the star-struck boy.

Now, as ever, Adina is out of Nemorino's reach, perched on top of a truck, where she sceptically relates the story of Tristan and Isolde while Geoffrey Dolton's squirrelly Dulcamara darts from pesticide to plant food, concocting the elixir that will, in a roundabout fashion, unlock Adina's heart and blur the wrinkles and receding hairlines of her gullible workers.

Furtado is a tough-love director, perhaps too tough. Act I is all about pride: the goose-stepping, Gangsta-posing vanity of George von Bergen's Belcore and a streak of cruelty to Tynan's Adina. But as the sun sets on the sterile industrial shelving and Perspex walls of Leslie Travers's set, the trucks are converted into bodegas and the sunflowers nod and bend, the magic of Act II casts its spell. Dolton's energy, von Bergen's machismo, Di Toro's warmth, the mellow playing of the City of London Sinfonia under Stephen Higgins, and, most of all, Tynan's exquisitely idiomatic performance of "Prendi, per me sei libero" combine to touching effect.

So from the sunflowers of Holland Park to the Chapeau chinois, aka Jingling Johnny, the elaborate bell-hung instrument beloved of Baroque composers. The exotic percussion in Les Siècles' lithe period-instrument performances of Lully's Cérémonie pour les Turcs and Rameau's Danse du grand Calumet de la paix and Chaconne sauvage under François Xavier Roth (Prom 4, Royal Albert Hall, London ****) opened a sequence of Proms in which dance, benign and cruel, threaded through five centuries of music.

Roth offered a whistlestop survey of French ballet and historical instrumentation, from the theorbos and tamborinos of the ancien régime to the watery pedal harp, musky brass and smoky cor anglais of Delibes's Coppélia and the tart piccolos of Massenet's El Cid, delivered, oddly, without rubato. Played in Stravinsky's original version, The Rite of Spring became a concerto for early 20th-century French woodwind, Michael Rolland's humid bassoon solo a lethal hot-house flower. The style police may shake their heads over Roth using a staff to beat time in the Rameau (that practice ended after Lully died of gangrene poisoning from a self-inflicted wound), and I wonder at a Rite in which the soundworld is more electrifying than the performance itself. All the same, what a treat.

Helmut Lachenmann's Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied, performed by the Arditti Quartet and Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Jonathan Nott (Prom 5), wove filaments of historic dance forms around shreds and shadows of the stolidly cheerful Haydn melody that became the German national anthem. This gauzy, monumental work operates at two levels: as a musical vergangenheitsbewältigung ("a coming to terms with the past") typical of Lachenmann's generation of German artists, and as a de- and reconstruction of musical tradition. Some heard Beethoven and Bach in the brush and tap of bows on wood and steel. I heard Praetorius. It was, in any case, the perfect prelude to Thomas Adès's blistering Totentanz (Prom 8), premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the composer, with Simon Keenlyside singing the role of Death and Christianne Stotijn as his wheedling, lamenting, horror-struck, seduced, disarmed or pitifully trusting dancing partners, from pope to parish clerk, mayor to maiden, peasant to child.

A bold, greedy, gloriously scored work of burning, Bergian lyricism, Totentanz is Adès's tightest and most thrilling concert work since Asyla, the symphonic techno anthem that made his name.

'L'elisir d'amore' to 3 Aug (opera hollandpark.com)

Critic's Choice

The BBC Proms goes Wagner crazy as the Ring Cycle from Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, opens with Das Rheingold at the Royal Albert Hall, London (Mon), and Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Tristan und Isolde (Sat). Meanwhile, Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company present Handel's Acis and Galatea in the garden cloisters of Iford Manor, near Bradford-on-Avon (from Sat).

 

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable