Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

L'elisir d'amore, Opera Holland Park
17 Jul 2013

L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park

Pia Furtado’s production of Donizetti’s gentle rom-com, L’elisir d’amore, opens in the greenhouse-laboratory of a sunflower factory — all steel trolleys and agronomic apparatus.

L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park

A review by Claire Seymour

Above image by Opera Holland Park

 

A rather prosaic setting for this tender tale of amorous affection, one might think, but in fact the backdrop of infinite fields of golden-headed sunflowers aspiring eagerly towards the fresh azure above, was a neat complement to the scorching summer sun outside.

Back in the factory, the workers busied themselves with seeds, samples and solutions, clad in trademark royal-blue industrial overalls, overseen by two advertising trailers bearing the portrait of the sunflower-goddess, Adina, amid a sunny pastoral paradise. Ordering the workers back to work, the boss herself overlooked the sneaky entry of a ragged brigand, one Dr Dulcamara, who proceeded to pilfer the pods and potions for his own chemical cocktails.

An interesting start, but sadly, despite designer Leslie Travers’ appealing vistas, one which didn’t really add up and quickly ran out of steam. By Act 2, with the ‘peasants’ stripped of their boiler suits and arrayed in their finery for the wedding of Belcore and Adina, the sunflowers seemed pretty irrelevant and the tray-laden trolleys, clumped together centre-stage, a redundant intrusion.

The charm of the work lies in its perfect balance of tenderness and wit, and both were somewhat lacking in this production. Only when Nemorino suggestively sponged the larger-than-life mascot-Adina — an endearing moment of naïve, dreamy wish-fulfilment — was a chuckle raised. Elsewhere the comedy — goose-stepping soldiers, some ‘racy’ goings-on in the trailer — was too slapstick, at times Monty Python-esque, and didn’t allow the humanity of the characters to shine through. The Holland Park Chorus, although accurate and well-marshalled, lacked the brightness of tone that was such an invigorating force in the season’s earlier production of The Pearl Fishers. There was little sense of a community of friends and fellows having fun, and too often the chorus were arranged in static clusters. Even the final chorus, when the opportunistic Dulcamara coolly cashes in on the success of his miracle medicine, was rather muted and restrained.

The sluggish tempi adopted by conductor Steven Higgins didn’t help matters. Higgins was practical and precise, and the players of the City of London Sinfonia performed, as they have done throughout the season, with customary clarity and a sure sense of a well-turned phrase. But Higgins used large gestures when small ones would have been more efficient, and didn’t quite pull off the Rossinian crescendo-accelerando, often labouring in four beats in a bar when slipping into two would have spurred things along more swiftly and slickly.

Fortunately a saviour was at hand, in the form of Sarah Tynan’s wonderful Adina. Following two recent, stellar turns in the role at English National Opera, Tynan is a total natural as the capricious minx with an essentially good heart. Factory owner or foreman, it wasn’t quite clear, but she was certainly master of the proceedings, the absolute star of the show. Coolly confident, there was not a note or nuance that was not fully in her command and, although Furtado seemed to have offered little direction, Tynan used every shade of her luscious soprano to sparkling dramatic effect, her voice agile, vibrant and unfailingly sweet.

She was well-matched by Aldo Do Toro as Nemorino. Returning to Holland Park after his well-received performance in a darker Donizettian mode, as Edgardo in Lucia, Do Toro once again revealed a warm, well-focused tenor, well-equipped to rise to the heights with no sense of strain. Simple and trusting, moving easily about the stage, he was an engaging and lovable dolt although, despite the pseudo-scientific interventions of Dulcamara, there was not much chemistry between Do Toro and Tynan.

Paradoxically, when things needed to settle back and unwind more languidly, Steven Higgins hurried along. Do Toro’s lines were smooth and well-shaped in the sentimental ‘Una furtive lagrima’, but he needed a few moments of relaxed expansion to do full justice to the Italianate lyricism.

Baritone George von Bergen was a consistent Belcore. One of the troops, as opposed to the commanding officer, this Belcore was more bluff and bluster than military might, but in his Act 1 aria, ‘Come Paride vezzoso’, von Bergen demonstrated a resonant lower register. An overly heavy vibrato occasionally marred the focus though, dulling the brightness and diminishing the impression of Belcore’s swaggering self-adulation. Rosalind Coad was a characterful Giannetta with an aptly mischievous tint to her voice.

Which brings us to the calculating chancer whose medicinal machinations are honoured in the opera’s title. Standing in at short notice for the indisposed Richard Burkhard, Geoffrey Dolton presented an idiosyncratic, but not wholly successful, interpretation of Dulcamara, far removed from the usual glib self-publicist and confident conman. Low-key, preferring to skulk in the shadows than parade in the spotlight, Dolton sang competently but rather blandly; assuming that the factory workers had a little scientific nous at their disposal, being familiar with tinctures to ‘make the garden grow’, it was hard to believe that they would be duped by Dulcamara’s rather lacklustre sales-pitch, ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’ (the anachronistic term ‘peasants’ being typical of the disappointing surtitles which also at times took considerable liberties with the libretto).

Dolton’s duet with Tynan, ‘Io son ricco e tu sei bella’, is intended to wow the wedding-feast guests and should be a show-stopping party-piece, but on this occasion there was little festive fizz; with his light and flexible baritone, Dolton can despatch Donizetti’s decorative flounces, but his voice does not really have the weight for this role. He was probably hampered too by Furtado’s sometimes underwhelming direction, particularly in Act 2, but this was a shame for an ironically masterful Dulcamara can convince us all that the tale is more than mere barmy nonsense.

L’elisir d’amore continues in rep until 3 August — go for Tynan’s dazzling Adina alone.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Adina, Sarah Tynan; Nemorino, Aldo Di Toro; Belcore, George von Bergen; Dulcamara, Geoffrey Dolton; Giannetta, Rosalind Cold; Director, Pia Furtado; Designer, Leslie Travers; Lighting Designer, Colin Grenfell; Conductor, Steven Higgins; City of London Sinfonia; Opera Holland Park Chorus. Opera Holland Park, Tuesday, 16th July 2013.

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):