The power of opera to transform language, voice, and music into the finery of sentiment was evident in L’Elisir d’Amore at Theatre Royal this month.
The dance of notes across the theatre had a busyness ineffable to the gentility of the physical choreography of the characters across the stage. This liveliness of this comic composition addresses the tone of a 1950s European holiday pleasingly. The odd intersection of character stereotypes and an ethereal medium was effective.
What is so distinct about this adaption is the language. Daniel Slater originally staged L’Elisir for Opera North in 2000 with an English translation. This revival reverts Donizetti’s popular nineteenth century to Italian. Although this has been criticised for removing the directness David Parry’s original words, it is omnipotent in transporting us to the Italian holiday resort, complete with Vespas, cappuccinos, and champagne. The bleakness of Grey Street in March disappears.
The devotion of peasant Nemorino for wealthy hotel owner Adina is typically operatic and overdosed. From the first scene he indulges us with “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara” (How beautiful she is) and this passion does not diminish in his quest of love potions. How colourful the world would be if feelings were articulated with such effervescence in the real world. Although, following Nemorino with his unsound medical treatment, I would suggest that perhaps he should have just stuck to the red wine.
The theatricality of this performance and sizeable chorus surpasses the simplicity of the linguistic expression. Understanding Italian is entirely irrelevant to how sincerely the story and the feelings are expressed by this esteemed selection of performers.
Something must be noted on how Donizetti wrote this opera in a meagre six weeks. Its resonance in the arts and its ability to perform so capably in a 2016 context holds the beauty of longevity.
This evening of entertainment performed as an ‘elixir of love’ for me and the higher realms of musical performance.