Saturday, May 13, 2023

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE - National Opera

Matthew Avery (Dr Dulcamara) - Daniel Verschuer (Nemorino) - Sarah Darnley-Stuart (Adina) - Elsa Huber (Gianetta) - Sitiveni Talei (Belcore) - Chorus and Orchestra performing
National Opera's  "The Elixir of Love"

Peter Coleman-Wright’s Pocket Opera adaptation of the tuneful Donizetti opera, “The Elixir of Love”, is the most ambitious of these productions yet presented by National Opera, and arguably the most successful.

Introduced by Coleman-Wright to provide an opportunity for emerging opera singers to study and perform the popular opera repertoire, these condensed versions include all the best bits, and also some of the lesser-known sections which also contain beautiful music.

“The Elixir of Love” is perfect for this purpose. Its story could be taken as a veiled warning to young gentlemen about the dangers of drinking, but more importantly the opera contains five demanding principal roles and requires a large chorus.  It is also packed full of lovely melodies, the most the most famous of which is the lovely “Una furtive lagrima” (A Furtive Tear).

The story concerns a young farmhand, Nemorino, who’s in love with pretty village maiden, Adina. The local police sergeant, Belcore, also has his eye on Adina. So when a wily traveling salesman, Dr Dulcamara offers Nemorino a potion (which is really only some local wine with flavouring) and assures the gullible lad that it will make him irresistible to Adina, what do you think will be the result? If you can’t work it out, you’d better see the opera.

Daniel Verschuer (Nemorino) - Sarah Darnley-Stuart (Adina) in a moment in "The Elixir of Love"

In the central role as the gullible Nemorino, Daniel Vershuer impressed with his clear ringing tenor, excellent diction and stage presence. He was well matched by the well-sung, confident performance of soprano, Sarah Darnley-Stuart, as Adina, who charmed with her responses to her complicated predicament. 

As Nemorino’s rival for the hand of Adina, Sitiveni Talei was a dominate figure, delighting with his large presence, his rich bass baritone and his impish sense of comedy.

Sitiveni Talei (Belcore) - Sarah Darnley-Stuart (Adina) - Elsa Huber (Gianetta) in a moment from 
"The Elixir of Love"

In the other baritone role as the wily fraudster, Dr. Dulcamara, Matthew Avery was a stand-out, offering a superbly sung, polished portrayal which captured attention whenever he was on stage.

Recent ANU School of Music graduate, Elsa Huber, as Adina’s friend, Gianetta, offered a spirited, eye-catching interpretation of the role, which stamped her as a singer to watch.

The excellent work of Chorus Master, Louis Sharpe, was obvious in the excellently balanced singing of the large chorus. However, accommodating them, as well as the principals, on the small stage at the Albert Hall, provided director, Ylaria Rogers, with some significant challenges, most of which were overcome with sensible decisions which allowed the mischievous fun which permeates the opera to shine through.

In addition to the excellent performances by the singers, a particular pleasure of this production was the joyous orchestral accompaniment provided by the Canberra Sinfonia, under the deft conducting of Leonard Weiss, who not only insured a superbly nuanced performance by the ensemble, but at one stage even left the podium to play harp for the beautiful “Una furtiva lagrima” . 

                                                      Images by Peter Hislop

      This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 10th May 2023