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★★★★☆

It takes only one Australian colloquialism to describe WA Opera’s production of The Elixir of Love – it’s a corker. Donizetti’s popular comic opera, written in Italy in 1832, is here set in a regional Australian town on the brink of World War I. The 2001 Simon Phillips production is playfully brought to life by director Cath Dadd, paired with an ingenious corrugated iron set by Michael Scott-Mitchell. The lighting (Nick Schlieper) and costume (Gabriela Tylesova) perfectly blend with the set to provide a sunny, dusty outback landscape that would make even the toughest of Aussies homesick. Stuart Stratford, the recently appointed Music Director of Scottish Opera, led a vibrant West Australian Symphony Orchestra and worked magic from the pit throughout the night. However, the icing on the cake of this fantastic production is the surtitles, rejigged to relate to the Australian setting. A memorable example was Adina singing that Nemorino’s love for her will stick like a “dag to a sheep”.

Rachelle Durkin and Aldo Di Toro return to their respective roles of Adina and Nemorino for a third time, and you can quickly tell why this is their third reprise. Durkin provides all the allure and graceful coloratura that Adina demands, her smarts and wit enabling her to torment the poor Nemorino, who confesses his love for her in the first act. Di Toro seems to be made for Nemorino, his clean and crisp vocal quality (and stamina) allow him to shine throughout an opera where he never seems to stop singing. He oozes Nemorino’s boyish charm and innocent love for Adina, pulling tight at the audience’s heart strings.

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Sergeant Belcore (played by a suave Jose Carbo), dashes Nemorino’s hopes of a fairytale ending with Adina, by courting her upon his arrival in their rural town. Even though Adina rebuffs Belcore’s attempts at seducing her, Nemorino is desperate to gain Adina’s love now that competition has arrived. Doctor Dulcamara (a greasy Marco Nistico) rolls into town selling various potions to the unsuspecting townsfolk, and sells Nemorino the “Elixir of Love,” a bottle of Coca Cola. Dulcamara, fully aware that his potions are bogus, promises Nemorino that all the girls in the town will fall for him, but that he has to wait 24 hours (giving Dulcamara enough time to skip to the next town). With new found confidence, Nemorino withdraws his daily attention to Adina, and she is so bothered by this that she agrees to marry Belcore that afternoon.

The second act flaunts the versatility of Michael Scott-Mitchell’s playful set, showcasing a rustic barn where Adina and Belcore’s wedding is to be held, as well as a chicken pen, where the women’s chorus and Gianetta (the hilarious Jennifer Barrington) cluck over a fortune left by Nemorino’s Uncle to the blissfully unaware Nemorino. Not surprisingly the highlight of the evening was Di Toro’s Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Furtive Tear). The popular aria was very moving and sung with tenderness and warm legato throughout.

WA Opera’s The Elixir of Love makes for an amazing night out for the regular opera-goer or even an opera virgin. Hilarious and highly accessible, I urge everyone to buy a ticket this week!

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The Elixir of Love continues its run this week at His Majesty’s Theatre, on the 19th, 21st and 23rd of July. Tickets available here.

Written by Louis Hurley

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