L'elisir d'amore - National Theatre Munich, 21 July 2010
Of course I knew (a few hours) in advance. But it seemed from the collective gasp that many were taken by surprise when it was announced that illness prevented Rolando Villazon from appearing and Pavol Breslik, having arrived just an hour before from a Salzburg rehearsal, would be taking his place. I probably wouldn't have booked for one of my least favourite operas (long sold out) if it wasn't for the scheduled appearance of one of my most favourite singers. It seemed from the widespread booing when Rolando's name was announced that many others wouldn't have either.
Pavol Breslik proved a superb replacement though - you'd never guess he was drafted in so late. All the choreographed moves and fiddly stage business came so easily to him it was as if he'd rehearsed them for a couple of days the previous week.
David Bösch's production takes its cue from the Chaplinesque figure of Nemorino; silly, charming and tragicomic by turn. Balloons fly up, confetti rains down, heart motifs are slipped in everywhere. Yet a blood-drenched soldier with a face like raw steak serves as a grisly reminder of Belcore's profession. Nemorino's decision to sign up in order to gain Adina's love is a genuine sacrifice, with potentially fatal consequences.
Breslik filled every aspect of the role admirably. Stripped to his tighty-whities for a drunken dance, it is clear that this Nemorino has more to offer his admirers than a massive inheritance.
(No Breslik undiepics, but here is Filianoti in the first run, December 2009):
His reedy tenor and rapid vibrato are not exactly beautiful, but Breslik is an accurate singer who gets the text across clearly. And marooned halfway up a lamp post for Una furtiva lagrima, he made a familiar tune surprisingly heart-wrenching.
To begin with, Nino Machaidze struggled to contain her spreading tone and smudgy coloratura, and her intonation at the top was rarely accurate. But once she had her big voice under control, she offered a sparkling and self-possessed Adina of great charm. Her looks, a cross between Angelina Jolie and Anna Netrebko, can't be hurting her career, but I do wonder if she's doing too much too soon.
Ambrogio Maestri works off his looks in a different way. His lardy lump of a Dulcamara rolls in on some kind of giant ploughing machine dusted with fairy lights. With his vast belly straining against a filthy jumpsuit, he won the audience over before he'd even sung a note. Whether singing with wheedling elegance or shouting his wares he was hilarious.
Fabio Maria Capitanucci was an oddly sombre Belcore, Angela Brower an irritating (the production's fault, not hers) Giannetta, chasing Nemorino around in goofy spectacles and a grubby bridal gown.
Juraj Valcuha's conducting was barely up to Bavarian State Opera standards. Donizetti is of course not sausage and sauerkraut to this orchestra, but they sounded desperately sluggish, and how you can detach an excellent chorus from a top-class orchestra in something like L'elisir I just don't know.
Production photos (Bavarian State Opera):
Dulcamara and customers:
Second act opening:
Dulcamara and Adina:
Una furtiva lagrima (Filianoti pictured):