Opera can often be a serious business with many works full of angst, murder and mayhem. Every now and then, however, one comes along that is pure delight and whimsy. NZ Opera’s latest offering The Elixir of Love falls into the latter category.
Written by Donizetti in the early 1830s this opera is about a poor peasant named Nemorino who is in love with a wealthy and gorgeous young lady called Adina. As is typical in opera there is a love triangle and as such, Adina spurns Nemorino, then flirts with him, then gets engaged to a dashing army officer and then decides she’s actually head over heels in love with Nemorino after all. During all of this Nemorino buys a fake love potion and convinces himself that every girl in the village is in love with him. He also inherits a huge amount of money.
It’s classic ‘soap’ opera and it’s ridiculously delightful.
This production of The Elixir of Love is just superb, and it’s principle artists world class. Pene Pati (of Sol3 Mio) makes his NZ Opera debut as Nemorino and I don’t think I have ever seen an opera singer more engaging to watch. As well as his beautiful voice, he managed to bring an adorable cuteness to the role, and his reactions to events whether they were happy, sad or depressed were mesmerising.
Amina Edris as Adina and Morgan Pearse as Belcore were excellent with Pearse in particular able to bring a comedic element to the fore as a somewhat stuck up Sergeant.
Perhaps the biggest delight was Conal Coad as Dr Dulcamara. Coad is the consummate showman and with his deep voice and devilish way of playing the doctor meant he easily stole every scene he appeared in.
The Elixir of Love is a comedy and this production made great work of squeezing as much humour from the show as possible.
From using corrugated iron animals on set and Aussie slang and colloquialisms in the surtitles the production milked every opportunity to make the audience laugh and they lapped it up. At one point, Pene Pati walked to the front of the stage and looked up at the titles as if to understand what Dulcamara (who had a mouthful of food) was saying. It was comedy gold and the applause was rapturous.
Also of note was the set design which consisted of various layers of corrugated iron reaching to the back of the set giving a sense of a hilly countryside. Coloured in yellows, oranges and blues, it evoked the Australian outback which was the setting of this production.
Having never seen or heard this opera before, it came as a wonderful surprise and while there were no particular stand out arias the music was wonderful and the overall show was magical, mischievous and fun.
The Elixir of Love
Auckland 31 May – 7 June
Wellington 23 – 30 June