Magazine article Opera Canada

Elisir D'amore

Magazine article Opera Canada

Elisir D'amore

Article excerpt

ALAGNA, GHEORGHIU, SCALTRITI, ALAIMO, dan. orchestra and chorus of l'Opera National de Lyon, Evelino Pidu, conductor. London 440 074 203 (2 LVDs/3sides: 124 minutes). ****

THIS NEW LONDON RELEASE OF GAETANO Donizetti's effervescent comedy L'Elisir d'Amore is one of many fine videos that have emanated from the enterprising National Opera in Lyons, France. Frank Dunlop's charming production is a delight, and a fitting salute to the Italian composer on the occasion of his largely ignored bicentenary. Although the infectious two-act opera was one of Donizetti's first major--and enduring--successes, it is interesting to note that L'Elisir d'Amore (which was composed in under four weeks) was his 40th completed opera. The tenacious composer was only 34 at the time, and his great tragic operas were all yet to come.

The setting for this Lyons Opera production has been updated--quite successfully--to the 1920s. Nothing, however, is forced or contrived. It simply means, for example, that the adorable quack, Doctor Dulcamara, arrives in the small Italian village not by hot-air balloon or by horse and carriage but by a motor car and trailer bursting with his dubious wares. Given the applause, the Lyons audience clearly loved it, as did tenor Roberto Alagna (as the love-sick peasant Nemorino) and his real-life wife, Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu (as the beautiful and flirtatious land-owner Adina), who both appeared to be having a ball.

Given the excessiveness of the hype surrounding Alagna, it is perhaps not surprising that he never quite lives up to expectations. Visually, he is adorable on stage, but vocally he does have his limitations. In a large house, his voice appears somewhat small, and hearing him in this video, one suspects that the larger roles (which must require some forcing on his part) are taking their toll on the inherent beauty of his sound. …

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