Much like Dr Dulcamara, the Glyndebourne Tour this year is taking warmth and merriment across the country by way of a revival of Annabel Arden’s splendid production of L’elisir d’amore. Donizetti’s comic tale of love and quackery is one of those ‘feel-good’ operas that is dependent on a taut and focused production, a tight performance in the pit and a cast that can both sing and deliver comic timing. This run has all of that in spades.

Misha Kiria (Dr Dulcamara) and Benedetta Torre (Adina) © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper
Misha Kiria (Dr Dulcamara) and Benedetta Torre (Adina)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper

Arden’s staging premiered in 2007 and has remained an audience favourite since then (indeed, it returns again to Glyndebourne for the main festival in 2020). It’s not hard to see why. Arden has no interest in imposing a Regietheater approach; the setting remains the sweltering heat of Italy, though updated to the early 20th century. It’s all sunlight, dancing and village gossip, at the heart of which is Adina (often to be seen wearing trousers – hint hint?), orbited by a dreamy Nemorino consigned to the fringes. The revival is tightly choreographed: tutti scenes are carefully placed and there is never a sense that anyone on stage has been left with nothing to do. Likewise, the direction of the principals feels organic and unforced, in part of course due to the calibre of the acting.

Benedetta Torre (Adina) and Sehoon Moon (Nemorino) © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper
Benedetta Torre (Adina) and Sehoon Moon (Nemorino)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper

The parochial life of the villagers is thrown into disorder by the arrival first of a troop of soldiers and then by travelling quack Dulcamara, here accompanied by a tattooed, cross-dressing mime (delivered by Maxime Nourissat to great hilarity) who on arrival hacks into the electricity supply to power a rather surreal video advert for Dulcamara. Gags and comic drama ensue, and there’s no shortage of comedy throughout the production, but one is left with an overall feeling of warmth from Arden’s affectionate and human treatment of the characters.

Benedetta Torre was a beguiling Adina; less petulant than one sometimes sees, and very much seeking to be in control of her own life. Torre has a delightful instrument, with solid registers from high to low. She was generous with her top notes and her phrasing was immaculate. Her Nemorino was sung by Sehoon Moon with just the right mix of bashful shyness and passion, a warm, likeable figure. His light fragrant tenor was deployed to earnest effect, diction was pointed and he showed a clear flair for comic timing.

Matthew Durkan (Belcore) and Benedetta Torre (Adina) © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper
Matthew Durkan (Belcore) and Benedetta Torre (Adina)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper

Matthew Durkan has the ideal physique for the swaggering Belcore, tall and burly, and he makes the most of it, inserting himself forcefully into the action and presenting an excellent contract to Nemorino. Misha Kiria was a charismatic showman Dulcamara, joyously bouncing across the stage. His comic partnership with Nourissat offered some rewarding – if perhaps obvious – moments of raunchy comedy, which once seen were not easily unseen. Kiria has an interesting voice with plenty of texture, but it is not the biggest of instruments and his patter in the first act was largely inaudible from the stall. An honourable mention must go to Carrie-Ann Williams’ Giannetta, whose transformation from bosom friend of Adina to fortune-hunting rival was deftly done.

Matthew Durkan, Carrie-Ann Williams, Benedetta Torre, Maxime Nourissat and Misha Kiria © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper
Matthew Durkan, Carrie-Ann Williams, Benedetta Torre, Maxime Nourissat and Misha Kiria
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd | Donald Cooper

Pacing from conductor Ben Glassberg in the pit was tight and there was a clear harmony between orchestra and singers. Apart from a brief fading in the brass, quality of playing was high. The Glyndebourne Chorus gave a boisterous and tuneful performance. As England moves into the chilly winter months, this sunny production is a must-see.

****1