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L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera House, London, review: It remains a winning formula

Laurent Pelly's version of Donizetti's opera, set in sunny Italy in the 1950s, is complete with haystacks and a real dog who runs across the stage

Michael Church
Tuesday 30 May 2017 13:18 BST
Pretty Yende as Adina in 'L'elisir d'amore' at the Royal Opera House
Pretty Yende as Adina in 'L'elisir d'amore' at the Royal Opera House (ROH/Bill Cooper)

Laurent Pelly’s glorious take on Donizetti’s masterpiece is now back in its fourth revival, and it remains a winning formula, with Pelly’s transposition of the plot – an ingenious send-up of the love-potion idea in Tristan and Iseult – to the Fifties Italy of Fellini’s Amarcord.

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.

There are moments when the revival direction gets a shade clunky, but the differing levels of the giant haystack dominating the set are still very cleverly exploited, and the Dad’s Army duo taking the place of Belcore’s usual platoon remain a sight gag one doesn’t tire of.

This time we have new principals, and if Paolo Bordogna fails to find the appropriate swagger for Belcore, Alex Esposito’s Dulcamara is hugely commanding. And in Armenian Liparit Avetisyan and South African Pretty Yende we get a pair of lovers whose rocky path to felicity is portrayed with wonderful freshness. Yende’s singing has a silvery brightness and purity, while Avetisyan’s sweet bel canto remains flawless no matter how much he hurls his india-rubber limbs about: I’ve never seen a funnier Nemorino.

Later in the run Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak – also married in real life – will take over these roles. That should be a knockout too.

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