L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera House, review: Vittorio Grigolo and Lucy Crowe triumph

But Bryn Terfel disappoints

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There are many ways in which Donizetti’s send-up of the love-potion idea in Tristan can work its spell.

And by setting it in the provincial Italy of Fellini’s Amarcord, Laurent Pelly and Chantal Thomas have created one of the most delectable. Covent Garden has fielded an interesting new team of soloists for its third revival of this much-loved show, with Lucy Crowe bringing a peachy fullness of tone – and irresistible flirtatiousness – to her exquisitely-sung Adina, and Vittorio Grigolo proving dream casting as the love-sick Nemorino. This Italian tenor is not merely a superb bel cantist: in best commedia dell’arte tradition, he uses his voice and rag-doll limbs to hilariously comic effect. 

But the big question was how Bryn Terfel would incarnate the quack doctor Dulcamara. The answer was surprisingly disappointing: Terfel’s characterisation was contrived, crude, and colourless, and there was more comedy in the chorus than we got from him. Dulcamara must be larger than life, or he is nothing; Bryn reduced him to ordinariness.

No matter: in every other respect, from Levente Molnar’s swaggering Belcore to the little dog which keeps belting across the stage, this remains a knockout evening. (One assumes Daniele Rustioni will learn to synchronise chorus and orchestra better than he did on opening night.)