Magazine article The Spectator

Opera Change of Heart

Magazine article The Spectator

Opera Change of Heart

Article excerpt

L'elisir d'amore Royal Opera House, in rep until 7 December The Pilgrim's Progress English National Opera, in rep until 28 November I think I have developed a crush on Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, which is strange, considering that it is so evidently adorable a work that most opera-goers fall for it straight away.

I have never been averse to it, in the way that I am to quite a lot of Donizetti's work, but in the light of the last two performances I've seen, within a few weeks, it has risen in my estimation to the level of being a masterpiece. The first was the Met's broadcast, delightful in all respects, but with an interestingly unusual balance of sympathy towards the characters. Now, at the Royal Opera, Laurence Pelly's production is revived for the second time, the revival director being Daniel Dooner, who has been unusually active, unless my memory fails me.

The feature of this Elisir that makes it truly outstanding - the excellent teamwork, inspired by the conducting of Bruno Campanella, granted - is Roberto Alagna's Nemorino. Though it has always been a favourite opera of his, this is the first time he has sung it at Covent Garden. His voice may not be quite as lovely as it was at its peak - 'Una furtiva lagrima' was a bit monochrome - but it gives no cause for alarm, though he should be careful about trying to throw in the odd high note. What is marvellous is his identification with the role, and his tasteful but energetic inventiveness. This Nemorino is no amiable village idiot, though he is as willing to believe in Dulcamara's love What is marvellous is Alagna's identication with the role, and his tasteful but energetic inventiveness potion as virtually everyone in the consumer society is in health products and anti-wrinkle creams. He jumps around on the vast haystack of the first scene to get as near to the cynosure of activity as possible, and later displays a remarkable range of tumbles, rolls and leaps. He is only too happy to reveal his physical charms to the village girls (with his back to the audience), and all told is not a loser whom Fate makes into a surprise winner, which Nemorino can so easily become, much to the opera's detriment.

Aleksandra Kurzak's Adina is familiar from 2007, but she is now more slender, more subtle, and more capable of pain when it seems as if she has spurned Nemorino once too often. Kurzak's voice is a size too small, or was in Act I, but she is a winning actress. Fabio Capitanucci didn't register much as Belcore, but that may be because of memories of Marius Kwiecen at the Met. …

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