Annabel Arden’s take on L’elisir d’amore has been a solid part of Glyndebourne’s stable since it debuted back in 2007. Amid flurries of champagne corks popping across the Glyndebourne lawns, it’s not hard to see why this most cheering of Donizetti operas with wine at its heart (albeit Bordeaux) is so popular. As with any production, however strong, there is a risk that it might become tired if not lovingly revived, but in the hands of revival director Sinead O’Neill, aided by a commendable cast, the 2023 revival could be flogged as “like new”.

Renato Girolami (Dulcamara) and Matteo Desole (Nemorino)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photographer: Bill Knight

Lez Brotherstone’s set designs are a familiar sight, but never fail to raise a smile, the worn stone building at the rear creating a well-sized piazza for the villagers to gossip, the soldiers to swagger and the visiting quack to flog his cure-all. The heat of rustic southern life is emphasised by judicious lighting and a well-placed water pump; with sweaty conditions and young villagers, not much is needed to send libidos rising, especially when handsome military uniforms and a deus ex machina inheritance are introduced. Choreography remains tight, with the antics by Dulcamara’s assistant, ably played by Maxime Nourissat, at its heart. Whether rigging the lights or being ravished as the gondolier girl, Nourissat captured the eye as he has in this role previously.

Nardus Williams (Adina) and Biagio Pizzuti (Belcore)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photographer: Bill Knight

In Matteo Desole, the naivety and desperate passion of a young man are superbly encapsulated in his performance as Nemorino. I recall seeing him sing Alfredo some years ago and finding his singing somewhat clinical; now, his palette seems far brighter, married to a fine technique which let his creamy tenor unleash secure top notes. Adina was no less well sung, Nardus Williams so comfortable in her higher register that she could practically have lived there. Williams’ silvery toned soprano is not huge, but was well projected and she showed a gorgeous trill at the top. She offered emotional complexity too, an Adina who goes on a journey of self-discovery that starts with artifice and ends with simplicity. A winning performance from them both.

Renato Girolami (Dulcamara), Maxime Nourissat (Dulcamara's assistant) and the Glyndebourne Chorus
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photographer: Bill Knight

Similarly impressive was Biagio Pizzuti’s Belcore, the injection of swagger in his opening not quite dispelling a graceful tone that made his character seem rather higher in rank than sergeant. Smooth legato and a sense of the text was a fixture of Pizzuti’s singing; his Belcore gets the consolation of a kiss from Laurène Paternò  who gave us one of the finest Giannettas I have seen, lively, agile and well-projected. Renato Girolami’s strong patter and avuncular beam made him an amiable, unprepossessing Dulcamara, though I am not sure that the raunchy Senator Threetooth piece was ideally suited to his rather fussy doctor. He seemed to suffer slightly with projection, occasionally wavering just below the orchestra, but was at his best in duet with Williams in Act 2.

Matteo Desole (Nemorino), Nardus Williams (Adina) and members of the Glyndebourne Chorus
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photographer: Bill Knight

Ben Gernon, making his debut at the Festival in this production, led a punchy, raucous performance from the London Philharmonic in the pit, often laying down his baton to shape phrases with his hand. A tad rushed on occasion, but there was a dynamism there that kept the opera from dragging, though not at the expense of a well-played “Una furtiva lagrima”. One left with spirits – and an interest in French wine – raised.