Watching Longborough Festival Opera’s L’elisir d’amore within 48 hours of attending Tristan und Isolde at Grange Opera made this genuinely funny production even more delightful.
Delightful as Donizetti took the love potion straight from Wagner’s tragic masterpiece and turned into the heart of a comic romp that is quite the antidote to the demanding, and wonderful, Tristan marathon.
This time the potion, of course fake, succeeds in that the village postman Nemorino does get his gal, Adina, after the local girls fall for his charms. Nemorino does not realise it is because they have heard he has just come into a fortune and nothing to do with the potion. Jealous Adina stops playing hard to get and all ends happily. The snake oil salesman Dulcamara claims victory, now asserting his elixir makes you rich.
Jennifer Witton and Arthur Bruce
Max Hoehn’s Longborough production transposes the action to a modern English village from designer Jemima Robinson, complete with all manner of jollity, a phone box that is now a defibrillator, a dog poop receptacle, girls in soccer shorts, a pastel-suit wearing gay couple, workmen in hard hats, a woman farmer with her spade, a Goth (or is it an emo nowadays?) old ladies with their shopping trolleys. Leading much of the village gossip and antics is a jolly schoolgirl, Giannetta, sung with great refinement by Haegee Lee. These fun characters form a generously voiced choir. This quirky collage-style designed village is, the backdrop states, Green, Pleasant and Now Protected.
Emyr Wyn Jones and chorus of villagers
Sung with vigour by Arthur Bruce, the military sergeant Belcore crash lands his plane outside the village and swaggers in to claim Adina and see off rival Nemorino. He nearly succeeds but Adina finally chooses the right guy. Having decided not to marry Belcore her wedding veil ends up in that dog poop bin.
There has been a range of good work from Thando Mjandana of late and as Nemorino he alternates between being chirpy and crestfallen. His acting is splendid and singing similarly capable of strength and tenderness bringing more than the usual roundness to the role. He is matched in acting ability and richness of voice, not to mention some cool dance moves, by the Dulcamara from Emyr Wyn Jones who just gets better and better. His duet with Jennifer Witton as a witty, clever, and sprightly sung Adina was a highlight of the evening. Witton has an appealing stage persona and is adept at the bel canto vocal thrills Donizetti supplies her with.
The composer is in excellent hands with the conducting of Alice Farnham.
Until July 1
Main image: Thando Mjandana and Jennifer Witton
Images: Matthew Williams-Ellis.