L’elisir d’amore - Royal Opera House, 12 May 2009
Only 18 months old, and already this Laurent Pelly production is looking tired. Actually, that's not quite fair. It's more that it leans too heavily on wow factor. Once you've seen the mountain of haystacks, the tenor on a tractor, the soprano on a Mobylette, and the most adorable Jack Russell ever - well, that's it really. You don't need to see it again. In 2007 I was persuaded, but second time around the sparkle of novelty has gone. Still, the fifties setting has an innocent charm, even if the relentless mugging of the cast grates after a while.
The best thing in the production by some distance is Diana Damrau's Adina (in SJP wig). Her bantering brother/sister relationship with Giuseppe Filianoti's Nemorino was beautifully handled, and sweetly touching when it melts into love. Effortless rippling coloratura topped off the silvery brilliance of her singing.
Filianoti is another question. His acting is terrific - never was there a more amiable dimwit. And he has a real rapport with Damrau. He sings cleanly I suppose, he hits the notes. But his tone is patchy, his colouring limited, and his top end is effortfully stretched, with only a spot of naughtily-interposed falsetto saving Una furtiva lagrima from crash-and-burn.
What about the rest? Thankfully Simone Alaimo's well-practiced Dulcamara was the real thing - I suspect in spite of the direction rather than because of it. I couldn't see why the lovely Adina would fall for Anthony Michaels-Moore's stiff and formal Belcore though. A little more oily charm was needed. Eri Nakamura had enough stage presence to make Giannetta's two minutes of glory memorable.
I'm not sure what conductor Bruno Campanella was aiming for. Clean, vibrato-free playing was combined with slowish, sometimes sluggish pacing - was he simply being considerate of certain singers? At least the pit/stage co-ordination was as accurate as we can hope for, and we were spared the ghastly village band sound favoured by many visiting conductors.
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