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Donizetti: L’elsir d’amore (Susan Elkin reviews)

Glyndebourne Tour: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Last month my granddaughter, aged 8, saw this production at Glyndebourne. It was her first opera but she was well prepared because the company had done some outreach work in her Brighton primary school (Hurrah!). She was thrilled with the production and having now seen it I can see why. It is huge fun and immaculately well staged and sung.

The oblique frontage to Adina’s house provided by Les Brotherston’s set leaves plenty of room to accommodate the large and fine chorus which Donizetti’s score makes more use of than earlier composers such as Mozart.

Nardus Williams is terrific as the attractive but hard-to-get Adina wanted in marriage by two men, one of whom is a cad (Matthew Durkan – good) and the other is clearly the one she should have (Sehoon Moon of whom more anon). Her top notes soar, her emotional control is excellent and her duets are delightful.

Moon (tenor) is boyish and very appealing dramatically. And his last famous aria, over harp and clarinet, just before Adina finally sees sense is the showstopper it should be. All in all his is a very memorable performance.

Also outstanding is Misha Kiria as the Dr Dulcamara – all those fabulous bass patter songs unfurled at high speed with clarity and insouciant panache. He looks comical too because he dwarfs everyone else.

Much of this performance reminded me of a comment made by Michael Berkeley in his recent Private Passions with psychotherapist, Philippa Perry on Radio 3. He explained to her that traditionally, before the mid nineteenth century, almost every emotion in opera was expressed in a vibrant 3/4 rhythm, (oom-pa-pa). This show is almost a case study to prove his point which is partly why it swings along so cheerfully.

I was delighted to see lots of very engaged school parties at the matinee I attended. Ironically what, I suspect, most of them will remember most is the performance by mime artist, Maxine Nourissat as Dr Dulcamara’s assistant, Puck to the other man’s Oberon. It’s a non-singing part but he commands the stage for every second he’s on it whether he’s dancing, prancing, twitching, gesturing, “talking” with his very expressive hands or twirling an umbrella in the colours of the Italian flag.

First published by Lark Reviews:

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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