Wednesday, 14 November 2012

L'Elisir d'Amore at Covent Garden (updated with full review)

Aleksandra Kursak as Adina in L'Elisir d'amore. ©ROH Catherine Ashmore 2007
Aleksandra Kursak as Adina in L'Elisir d'amore.
©ROH Catherine Ashmore 2007
I have to confess that, having heard Roberto Alagna singing at the recent Covent Garden Gala, I hadn't been much looking forward to hearing him as Nemorino in the latest revival of Laurent Pelly's production of L'Elisir d'Amore at Covent Garden. And when I arrived last night (13 November) my mood was not lightened by the fact that my press ticket was a seat in the Amphitheatre. As I was sitting next to a writer from another website, I could not help but get the impression that the web-hacks had been relegated to the cheap seats whilst those writing for papers were down stairs.


There was an announcement made that Susana Gaspar was ill (she was playing Giannetta); the announcement was made by Kasper Holten himself, rather charmingly reminding us to switch our phones off, and to enjoy ourselves.

It was nice to see that the programme included an historical performance summary, something that usually seems to go missing from Covent Garden programmes nowadays but which I find very helpful. It confirmed that memory wasn't playing tricks and that the last time I had seen the work at Covent Garden was in 1981 with Geraint Evans as Dulcamara and Carlo Bergonzi as Nemorino.

I hadn't seen Pelly's production before because it had arrived at Covent Garden at a time when there was a flurry of L'Elisir d'amores. Pelly sets the opera in 1950's Italy, in a small farming village (bales of hay are a big feature of the designs). It works well. But why is it that directors at the moment feel the need to set everything in the 1950's or 1960's. Of course, it gives them a chance to use nice shiny cars; well here they were vespas, plus a lorry and a tractor - I kid you not.

There was some very fine singing and playing, and the production was very funny and nicely observed. And Alagna, well I have to confess that I was surprised and charmed. That he can sing Aeneas in Les Troyens and still do Donizetti's comedy, clearly having fun, says something for his versatility. My full review is now on OperaToday.com

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