Gaetano Donizetti’s sweet little “melodramma giocoso” of 1832, L’Elisir d’Amore, is perhaps one of the most delightful operas ever written; full of romance and comedy underpinned by a witty and charming score makes it the perfect light-hearted entertainment for the end of the weekend, and the RNCM presented an excellently compelling production.

The brief orchestral prelude showed the orchestra off in tight rhythmic sections and broader lyrical strains – though there may have been a little weakness in the upper strings with intonation and romantic feeling, this did not detract from the overall excellent of control and performance. Similarly, the opening chorus, “Bel conforto”, was excellent in choral balance, diction and acting, the young singers clearly loving every bar.

The vocal entrance of Adina was pleasant: seated on a swing from a tree and reading Tristan and Isolde, Bryony Williams sang with grace and style throughout and excelled beautifully in brief passages of coloratura and lyrical loveliness. The accomplished Miss Williams furthermore entered the spirit of Adina’s initial cold-hearted intellectual spirit before relinquishing to her true feelings of amour for the honest, simple Nemorino. The star of the show was tenor Kang Wang, whose crystal-clear voice, with a very delicate and tastefully applied vibrato, is perfect for Donizetti’s hero. Whether in recitative, solos (“Quanto è bella” and “Una furtiva lagrima”) or ensembles, Wang’s purity of tone was an absolute pleasure. Wang also acted well, his eyes always on the prize – Adina.

Comedy was found in abundance, not only in the simple country-folk of the chorus but also in the scheming con-artist Dulcamara and up-tight, over confident sergeant Belcore. However, the limelight of both was stolen whenever Dulcamara’s assistant was present – an exotically dressed chorus girl who is regrettably not named in the programme, but whose saucy gesticulation executed with wild abandon often drew my eyes from the main action to her capering. I also loved her shoes. Following his chauffeured entrance on a small bike and sidecar, Thomas D. Hopkinson’s Dulcamara was amusing and sang well with a light baritone that suited well the music and character. Belcore, played by Benjamin Lewis, was very well acted and his voice is fine, though perhaps a little weak at times: I strained to hear him – in his defence, balance with the orchestra was not always well considered and the singers had to work very hard to be heard, with the orchestra occasionally overpowering them.

The creative team headed by conductor Francesco Pasqualetti and director Stefan Janski conceived a beautiful production, the likes of which if seen out of context would not suggest a principally student production – the RNCM in this respect could compete with any professional opera house. Lighting and stage design were sympathetically considered and added to an all-round enjoyable experience.

The music and action flowed in delicious harmony and I simply have to add what an unrivalled joy it is in these days of loony and eccentric directors to see what might be described as a “traditional production”; I am now so weary of mad productions (which is unfortunate at 27, as I expect to endure many more) that it was so pleasant to be able to sit back and enjoy a performance that doesn’t pull any punches and allows you appreciate a work of art as intended by the composer without leaving you scratching your head and for me is the cause of so many splinters.

If this production and performance could be bottled, Dulcamara could sell it as distilled loveliness.

I would like to point out something about the audience: it was packed, as are all RNCM opera productions, and I think this as much as anything is the calling for a Manchester-based opera company, so that we need not rely on the travelling companies or indeed spend a fortune on travel to London – Opera North being principally based in Leeds and Welsh National Opera coming no further north than Birmingham. This leaves me in eager anticipation of the RNCM’s upcoming Gluck and Sondheim.