16 August 2009

L’elisir d’amore at Glyndebourne

My third, of four, visits to Glyndebourne this year was to see L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti.

L’elisir d’amore (love potion) is essentially a RomCom and, as the picture shows, the two protagonists do get together and we have a happy ending.

Donizetti wrote home operas than just about any one else so while this is good enough it is a little slight. But Glyndebourne recognise this and know what to do.

First you make sure that the playing and the singing are spot-on so that the most is made of the (relatively) limited music. Secondly, you have a rich production that adds drama to the music.

For example, one scene that got a lot of positive response from the audience (I loved it too) was when the young women of the village come stumbling on to the stage looking as though they have had a ladettes' night out with clothes askew and dresses inappropriately tucked into knickers (that will get the spambots going!).

Key to this richness is the doctor's assistant, here pulling the cart. This is a non-singing role that is played wonderfully with exaggerated expressions like a mime artist.

The vibrant on-stage action is in marked, and welcome, contrast to the set which is a simple village square and is used throughout with no moving parts and little movement of props. This is classic Glyndebourne for me and I love the way that the set sits quietly in the background allowing the singing and acting to carry the drama.

There are times when the music does burst through and some of the arias in act 2, when the hero starts to give up on his love just as she starts to weaken for him, are very beautiful and brought unsolicited applause from the rapt audience. Note: I am still very much old-school in this respect and refuse to clap before the end.

Add the traditional picnic and a walk through the gardens to the mix and you have the recipe for a very enjoyable afternoon and evening out which even the presence of Michael Portillo could not upset.

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