Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.



Gaetano Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore
07 Aug 2009

Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

For adherents of the prima voce school of opera appreciation, this Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece may not hold that much appeal.

Gaetano Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

Aleksandra Zamojska, Laurent Naouri, Paul Groves, Heidi Grant Murphy, Ambrogio Maestri. Paris Opera Chorus, Paris Opera Orchestra. Edward Gardner, conducting.

Bel Air Classiques BAC040 [DVD]

$42.49  Click to buy

The singers delivery professional performances, and rising conductor Edward Gardner treats Donizetti’s score to an energetic, vibrant workover. The greatest impression and delight, however, comes from Pelly’s cinematic detail and his natural, inspired work with the leads and chorus. This DVD could become a textbook chapter on how to make singers live in their characters whether singing or not, while supplying a stage picture that captures the attention without fussy activity or distractions. Possessing charm and sensitivity, and fantasy and realism, Pelly’s L’Elisir d’amore makes for a very fine show.

Pelly updates the action to a farm town sometime in the mid-20th century. With the two strawberry-haired American leads, Paul Groves and Heidi Grant Murphy, we might almost be in Kansas, Dorothy - especially with all the haystacks, a mountain of which feature in the opening and closing scenes. However, the language on the buildings and vehicles remains Italian. Pelly designed the costume himself, favoring simple print dresses for the ladies and keeping Groves’s Nemorino in worn khakis and a stained striped t-shirt throughout. In the warm aura provided by Jöel Adam’s lighting, the sets of Chantal Thomas appear real, lived-in.

Wearing a perpetually stupefied look on his wide face, Groves plays Nemorino as none-too-bright, as the libretto demands, and yet so sweet and lovestruck that Adina’s eventual turn toward him and away from the strutting bantam rooster of Laurent Naouri’s Belcore makes perfect sense. Adina doesn’t have a lot of choices in men, and maybe that’s why Pelly has her isolate herself, seeking refuge in the mammoth haystack pile to read her book under the shade of an umbrella. Grant Murphy doesn’t play it cute - her Adina has an edge, and surely part of Nemorino’s attraction stems from a realization that he will need a strong woman by his side. As usually happens, scenes get stolen by the singer portraying Dulcamara, the traveling salesman who provides the title libation that gives Nemorino the liquid fortification to proclaim his love for Adina. Ambrogio Maestri is a big man with a wonderfully supple comic face. His adipose-rich bass voice makes for the performance’s best singing.

Naouri barks a bit too much as Belcore, and neither Groves or Grant Murphy have the most alluring of voices. Groves has reached a point where the freshness of his lyric voice has been supplanted by volume. As a result, “Una furtiva lagrima” is not the showstopper it usually is. Grant Murphy also seems to be relying on projection more than agility to make her points.

At curtain call, perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest hand goes to young conductor Edward Gardner, who has led the forces of the Paris Opera with such tyro enthusiasm.

Donizetti and librettist Felice Romani’s work can be swamped by too much comic invention, and it can also seem too slight in an unimaginative traditional production. Pelly gets it right - the humor, the humanity, the heat. Recommended.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):