Unlike the principals on the opening night in Milan in 1832, of whom an apprehensive Donizetti confessed to his librettist Romani:
“it bodes well that we have a German prima donna, a tenor who stammers, a buffo who has a voice like a goat, and a French basso who isn’t up to doing much”
all the leading singers – and indeed the whole cast and orchestra in this performance – showed brilliant, vibrant vocal and acting skills.
Whilst the rest of the cast are well settled into the second month of the Tour, this was the first night for the Adina of Romanian Eliana Pretorian and also for conductor Gareth Hancock. You would never have guessed it.
Praetorian gave an inspired performance, displaying wonderful diction, range and security, producing sparkling ribbons of sound and effortless coloratura as the coquettish flirt of the First Act, yet becoming increasingly and sympathetically lyrical in the Second as she comes to experience what love really means.
Christopher Tiesi brought a warm, vibrant and velvety tenor and was charming as the besotted Nemorino, balancing hang-dog despair with dogged but ultimately triumphant perseverance. His rendition of the show-stopping ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ in Act II, in particular, was beautifully sustained with lightness of tone and perfect vibrato. His rival, the swaggering soldier and self-assured Casanova, Sergeant Belcore was wittily played and elegantly sung by Alessandro Luongo, commanding a black-shirted unit of crazy gang’ Corporals’ Corelli.
Riccardo Novaro gave a bravura vaudevillian performance as the mountebank quack Dr Dulcamara, rolling, as if straight off the Epsom Downs like a character out of Frith’s Victorian panorama of The Derby Day, into a Dolmio-inspired Calabrian village inhabited by gullible rustics. Aided and abetted, but never up-staged, by an inspired display from his mute assistant, mimed brilliantly by James Bellorino, Novaro has an impressive voice and acting talent, evidenced not only by his interplay with both Nemorino and Adina, but also the delivery of Dulcamara’s tongue twisting patter with great skill and technical assurance. Each time he launched into his sales-pitch he produced, with Bellorino, a beautifully timed comic performance within a performance.
L’Elisir is one of the most wonderful heart-warming comedy operas and the staging of this 2007 production of Annabel Arden revived by Director Paul Higgins worked beautifully. The village piazza set of Lez Brotherton provided a working backdrop and seemed, like the cast, to be permanently bathed in a rosy glow, not of nostalgia, but the dappled warmth of a childhood memory when the world seemed happier, people were more beautiful and life was more fun.
Conductor Gareth Hancock brought sparkle to the score as one superb melody followed another and controlled the ensemble scenes, to which the excellent Glyndebourne chorus brought a burnished gloss, so that the crosscurrents of moods and motivations could always be distinguished, no matter how closely overlapped, in the meticulously choreographed comic frenzy.