Opera Review

 

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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

OperaUpClose present

 

Donizetti’s

L’elisir D’amore

 

L'Elisir D'Amore - Marc Callahan and Una Reynolds

Photo by Christopher Tribbleweb

 

In a new English version conceived by Valentina Ceschi

with a libretto by Thomas Ecceshare
and a new orchestration by John Gibbons

King’s Head Theatre
 
5 February 2012 – 16 March 2013

 

 

Donizetti’s Basque village at the turn of the nineteenth century is replaced with a Hollywood Mansion in the 1950’s for Valentina Ceschi’s racy reimagining of this staple opera. Lovesick gardener/poolboy figure Nemorino (Alex Vearey-Roberts) is a budding screenwriter without a wealthy relative in the wings as per the traditional arrangement. Hollywood starlet Adina (Una Reynolds) is the self-possessed object of his laboured affections and is infuriatingly attached to unctuous smarmdragon Sergeant Belcore (Marc Callahan). Thus troubled, Nemorino seeks the help of wonderfully opportunistic spin-doctor Dulcamara (Matthew Stiff) to net his love. And so this fantastically clichéd love-story unfolds in the intimate surroundings of the atmospheric King’s Head Theatre.

Costumes and set, designed by Kate Lane, provide an absolute explosion of Hollywood flavour and manage to create a warm sunny atmosphere in an otherwise cold corner of February. Limited space is utilised to maximum effect with a lilo pinned to a rippled blue wall forming a swimming pool space against the confined odds. Contrast and lighting by Benjamin Polya really invade the senses and the love-glasses provided at the interval add to a sense of welcome disorientation, impressively making artificial floral arrangements adorning the walls pulsate with lovehearts. Adina’s wedding dress for her ill-fated union with Belcore is a costuming highlight. It is a corseted gown with sculpted netting which conveys the wealth and sophistication behind soprano Una Reynolds’ perfectly cast Adina who oozes the glamour, flightiness and propensity for refined colourata required to steal the show.

A piano, viola and saxophone arrangement accompanies expert vocals from the five-strong cast. While the male cast-members were at times less space-aware, Adina and her chirpy companion Gianetta (Caroline Kennedy) were vocally delightful at every turn. Stylist Dulcamara is another strong presence, delivering a winning combination of strong vocals and consistent wit. Having apparently master-minded Marilyn Monroe’s mole, he operates with the swagger of someone of consequence while letting the bemused audience in on his swindling ways. With a rapidly concocted gin-fizz, he promises Nemorino love everlasting with Adina, to be fulfilled one day later, giving him enough time to skip town with his bag of bogus tricks.

There is also no denying the comic bluntness of Belcore’s intentions for Adina as his trophy wife and his very direct courting strategy; “Accept me as your conquerer, you cannot get away.” In spite of his far from subtle approach he appears on the brink of winning said trophy. In need of extra love potion at a cost of 100 pounds, and in a fit of lovelorn desperation, Nemorino signs up the army seeking the upfront payment which will secure his elixir and thus his love. Meanwhile, his forgotten film scripts have taken on a life of their own pointing to a drama-filled close.

This is a fun, pacy revival of a Donizetti classic and is a fitting opener to what is set to be a jam-packed year for Olivier Award-winning OperaUpClose.

 

Box office: 0207 478 0160
King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1QN
Tickets £10 - £25
www.kingsheadtheatre.com
 
 

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