L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera House, London
Wednesday 14 November 2012
Roberto Alagna has sung the role of the lovesick Nemorino before, but this was his Covent Garden debut in the role. And in a pre-performance interview he described his challenge: he would have to ‘fight with the ghost of his past’ – ie compete with his own best moments.
In strictly musical terms, one would have to admit that he doesn’t measure up: he missed one of his most important top notes, there were times when his voice sounded worn, and his delivery of ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ was little better than OK.
But this didn’t prevent the evening being a sparkling success, because he was always more than a dinky little chap with a lovely voice. He is also a fine actor and an athletic comedian, and with these qualities he made a perfect match for Aleksandra Kurzak’s Adina: I have never seen Donizetti’s tortured little romance so delightfully presented. We had an underpowered Belcore, but Ambrogio Maestri’s Dulcamara was stunningly effective, while conductor Bruno Campanella kept the score’s blend of melodrama, broad comedy, and heartfelt beauty in ideal balance.
Other keys to the success lie in the combination of Chantal Thomas’s Hopper-like designs and Daniel Dooner’s ‘revival direction’ of Laurent Pelly’s original show. In a sense this opera is indestructible, with its ingenious send-up of the love-potion idea in ‘Tristan and Iseult’, and Pelly’s transposition of the plot to the Fifties Italy of Fellini’s ‘Amarcord’ works a treat.
But the joy is in the detail, with the chorus turned into a believably real community, and little dashes of colour – for example, a real dog suddenly belting across the stage – to enliven the rustic charm of the village perspective.
The differing levels of the giant haystack dominating the set are cleverly exploited, and the Dad’s Army duo taking the place of Belcore’s usual platoon become a sight-gag you don’t tire of. And if Alagna both wrings our hearts and makes us laugh, Kurzak bewitches him - and us - with a soubrette performance which she has enormously deepened and enriched since she first sang it in 2007.
This young Polish soprano’s coloratura has such natural ease that one hardly notices it, her phrasing is exquisite, and when her facade cracks and she reveals her vulnerability she’s irresistible. This is the Adina of one’s dreams.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Refugee crisis: Sweden the only European country with a majority favourable towards non-EU immigration
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 3 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 4 Malnourished two-year-old found being breastfed by dog in Chile
- 5 Bryan Cranston speaks candidly about wealth
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees