Introducing… L’elisir d’amore
In this instalment of our Introducing… series we take a look at Donizetti’s light and sunny comedy L’elisir d’amore.
Annabel Arden’s joyful production has become a real Festival favourite. Over the years it has become the vehicle for plenty of young stars, who’ve gone on to make their mark.
The latest soprano to step into Adina’s stylish shoes is Nardus Williams. In the video below Nardus tells us about her Glyndebourne journey, from the chorus to singing principal roles in Festival and Tour. Plus, chorus master Aidan Oliver tells us more about the many ways that Glyndebourne supports young talent.
A brief introduction
One of opera’s great romantic comedies, L’elisir d’amore was the biggest success of Donizetti’s career – a work bursting with sunshine, melody and joy. Soft-hearted and sweet-natured, there’s a tenderness to this musical picture of small-town life and love that is impossible to resist, as well as an anarchic comedy that sweeps you along in its exuberant wake.
Nemorino loves Adina. Beautiful, popular and a landowner, she is a dream that seems well beyond his reach. A visiting quack rolls into town and sells Nemorino a potion he promises will win her heart. Complications, collisions and chaos ensue, and Adina becomes engaged – to someone else. But just as Nemorino despairs of ever getting his happy ending, the clouds lift and his devotion is rewarded.
L’elisir is an exhilarating mixture of musical styles, taking its audience from giddy, knockabout farce to heartfelt sincerity. Colourful orchestration helps paint a lively, affectionate scene of rural life, busy with eccentricity, emotion and comic escapades.
Why not to miss this production
Since its premiere in 2007, Annabel Arden’s L’elisir d’amore has become a real Glyndebourne classic, beloved for its warmth and sunny good humour. Relocating the action to Italy in the 1940s, Arden preserves the opera’s original small-town sweetness, its sense of dusty hopefulness and optimism, but spices it with just a hint of 20th-century politics. Adina’s handsome suitor Belcore is a soldier, and the black uniforms that he and the rest of his platoon wear nod to the fascism whose spread across Europe during the 1940s would threaten and ultimately destroy such communities. The sense of a rural idyll, of joyful innocence, is painfully intensified by the knowledge that it cannot endure.
Photo: L’elisir d’amore, Festival 2011. Bill Cooper
A great moment to look out for
Donizetti was very skilled at using particular instruments to conjure a whole mood. One of the most famous examples of this is the aria ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, which Nemorino sings with a solo bassoon.
Jonathan Davies, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Bassoon says ‘I think that he chose [the bassoon] because it’s a good reflection of the tenor. The pleading tone and singing register of the instrument really reflects what’s going on on stage’.
Cast and creative team
Ben Gernon makes his Festival debut, having previously conducted Don Giovanni and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for the Tour.
Playing Adina is soprano Nardus Williams, a rising star who is fast becoming a Glyndebourne favourite. After starting in our chorus, she has played Ciboulette in In the Market for Love (2020), Ann Trulove in The Rake’s Progress (Tour 2021), and the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro at Festival and Tour in 2022.
Making his Glyndebourne debut as Nemorino is tenor Liparit Avetisyan, who was originally cast in the cancelled 2020 production, and has recently appeared at the Royal Opera House in La traviata and Rigoletto.
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Image credits: L’elisir d’amore header, artwork by Katie Ponder