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In the past Glyndebourne on Tour has often staged a new production of a contemporary opera. This year it is less adventurously Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore that is getting its first showing on the company’s autumn tour. Having opened at Glyndebourne itself on Friday, the production will soon be setting off, in company with Verdi’s Macbeth and Britten’s Albert Herring, around the south of England until mid-December.

Donizetti’s sweet comic tale of a bogus potion – the elixir of love – sold by a quack doctor never fails to work its charm on stage, regardless of what today’s directors might do with it.

A couple of the most enjoyable productions of recent years have moved the setting to the open prairie lands of Midwest America and the grey suburbia of the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

By contrast, Annabel Arden’s production does what it says on the bottle. Although she has updated the action, the setting remains somewhere in Italy and the characters are recognisably Donizetti’s own.

Designer Lez Brotherston has provided a delightful Italian piazza setting, where the itinerant Dr Dulcamara can set up his stall to con the locals. (He plays them a slide show projected on to the wall of the church, which is an amusing idea, though the special effects did not work 100 per cent on the opening night). If only the personalities
sprang to life as vividly as their surroundings, all would be well.

As anyone who saw Pavarotti in the role of Nemorino will remember, this opera belongs to the tenor. Peter Auty makes a decent job of playing the penny-poor village boy – an electrician in this production, which is admittedly more apt than a plumber – but the music calls for a voice that can move from note to note without sounding breathy.

Adriana Kucerova’s Adina is a bright, modern girl and her soprano has a promising purity of tone, which she exploits with some class. Massimo Cavalletti and Luciano Di Pasquale, real Italians both, were sturdy and reliable as Belcore and Dr Dulcamara, and there was spruce, if sometimes inflexible, musical direction from conductor Enrique Mazzola.

Overall, the effect was pleasant, but rather bland. I suggest pre-ordering a strong potion at the bar for the interval.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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