Opera Theatre Company at the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, 21 November 2014
Opera Theatre Company’s co-production (with NI Opera) of Gaetano Donizetti’s comedy, originally promised for early Spring, finally reaches this side of the border – and not a moment too soon. The original setting of L’elisir d’amore, the make-believe bucolic wonderland of ‘a village in the Basque country’ is cleverly shifted into the near-present by director Oliver Mears. Here, the action takes place in the more current fantasy-setting of a school (or is it a college?) classroom. The unlikely pair of Adina (Anna Patalong) and Nemorino (Anthony Flaum) are separated not by social class, but instead by their respective roles as teacher and terminally-shy student, a situation that also provides a suitable setting for Adina’s story-telling in the opening scene (of that other love potion tale – Tristan and Isolde!). The challenge of staging opera, especially bel canto works like this, is to find a scenario that allows the drama to emerge through the music, rather than in spite of it, and Mears certainly achieves that in this crazed educational setting. Like a stage, the classroom becomes the arena for the increasingly comic interventions of, firstly, Nemorino’s bullying rival Sergeant Belcore (James McOran-Campbell) and then the supplier of that ‘miraculous’ elixir, quack-doctor Dulcamara (John Molloy).
There is much to enjoy. Patalong’s warmly lyrical soprano brings an engaging presence to Adina, while Flaum’s initially hesitant tenor warms to his role as the night proceeds. The chorus – once a rarity in OTC productions – is clearly well-drilled and provides good theatrical and musical support to the action, with some nicely characterised performances. Ever threatening to upstage everyone, however, is Molloy’s manic appearance as Dulcamara, fabulist-extraordinaire, a work of sheer comical genius that easily matches the rapid-fire demands of the role. The small orchestra, conducted by Fergus Sheil, plays beautifully. Arthur Jacobs’ smart singing translation of the libretto is updated with some nice local touches, while the excellent set designed by Annemarie Woods makes good use of the Pavilion stage. Touring nationally to 13 December, this is a production worth seeking out.
Donizetti: The Elixir of Love
Libretto: English translation (of L’elisir d’amore by Felice Romani) by Arthur Jacobs
Director: Oliver Mears; Designer: Annemarie Woods; Conductor: Fergus Sheil
Cast (in order of singing): Sarah Reddin (Giannetta); Anthony Flaum (Nemorino); Anna Patalong (Adina); James McOran-Campbell (Belcore); John Molloy (Dulcamara)