City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: Jan 21
Lo King-man and Musica Viva have followed up last year's La Fille du Regiment with another comic opera classic by Donizetti, L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love). A stronger production all round, it's a big step forward for the troupe.
Composed in 1832, the opera has stood the test of time due to its enchanting music and neatly turned libretto. Country bumpkin Nemorino is in love with the beautiful but fickle Adina. Unfortunately, since he has no money (and is not the sharpest pencil in the box), the witty and well-off Adina keeps rejecting him. When flamboyant quack Dr Dulcamara arrives in the village, the credulous Nemorino buys a love potion to make Adina fall for him - which, in the end, after a series of comic complications, she does.
The production makes good use of modest resources. The simple but effective designs with a feel of 1950s Italy give a nod to Fellini's early films. Lo's direction maintains a brisk pace and draws tight ensemble work and lively acting from the whole cast. A notable strength is the impressively well-balanced, focused singing by the Opera Society Chorus.
This opera belongs to the tenor and Dominic Armstrong's Nemorino is a star turn, extremely funny and endearing without bathos. His singing is consistently strong, with bright tone and firm control. The high point of the role is the great aria Una Furtiva Lacrima. This staple of the tenor repertoire can easily become hackneyed, but Armstrong sang it with affecting simplicity and feeling, winning a deserved ovation from the audience.
Soprano Christina Haldane's sparkling bel canto singing impressed in last year's La Fille du Regiment. Added experience has allowed her acting to catch up with her vocal ability and her Adina is vividly portrayed as well as charmingly sung. A trio of outstanding performances is completed by David Ward's rip-roaring Dulcamara.
A delightful evening which does justice to Donizetti's masterpiece.