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Elixir of Love, St Albans Chamber Opera***
1:39pm Thursday 25th March 2010 in Local Reviews
St Albans Chamber Opera's vernal timing could not have been better to stage the Donizetti's Elixir of Love. While its distinctly Mozartian recitatives, humourous badinage and absurd love potions make it more upmarket G&S than heavyweight opera, it is full of delightfully fresh tunes and strongly drawn characters thus ensuring it's a regular in the operatic repetoire.
Giving hope to love sick fools everywhere, Elixir of Love charts the story of the seemingly unlikely romance between Nemorino and Adina, proving Caravaggio's adage that love really does "conquer all".
Despite the comedy billing, the laughs were conspicuous by their absence. Director, Phyl Swindlehurst, relied on acutely one-dimensional staging and a lighting plot which did little to reflect the mood or create atmosphere. While the chorus had obvious vocal and dramatic qualities their fuzzy diction was such that the opening number was rendered indecipherable. They were an under utilised asset who, with more bold and thoughtful direction could have lifted the show from the realms of the ordinary into an altogether more lively and effervescent affair.
In spite of the diectorial shortcomings and having, a times, to compete with an over zealous orchestra, the impressive principals served up a succession of vocal treats. Love lorn Nemorino (Patrick Ashcroft) gave an earnest and sensitive performance. Vocally stiff at the start, his voice became more oiled and slick as he inhabited the character with his top register producing some delicate and controlled vocals. The subject of his obessive love, Adina (Kathryn Jenkin) used her light and youthful voice to produce some delightful melodic moments. Not nearly capricious enough, she lacked humour whilst the dearth of chemistry between her and Nemorino made for a disappointingly lukewarm coupling.
Paul Sheehan struck precisely the right note as Sgt Belcore. His deliciously juicy baritone coupled with his well judged self assurance and swagger provided some welcome laughter. Des Turner used his obvious charms to great effect as Dr Dulcamara. Never taking himself too seriously, his deftly handled patter and chocolately rich voice was a highlight.
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