WORKS: L’elisir d’amore
PERFORMER: Rolando Villazón, María Bayo, Jean-Luc Chaignaud, Bruno Praticò, Cristina Obregón; Gran Teatre del Liceu Chorus & SO/Daniele Callegari; dir. Mario Gas (Barcelona, 2005)
CATALOGUE NO: 267 2779
Donizetti’s rom-com arrives courtesy of a 2005 revival of an old Barcelona production, set – rather curiously for a piece that asserts its rural background so vigorously – in the courtyard of an apartment block in Mussolini’s Italy.
The political background scarcely obtrudes, however, and the plot’s regular basis in Rolando Villazón’s lovesick Nemorino (who here sells magazines from a kiosk) mooning around after María Bayo’s Adina (whose status is left pretty vague) is much as it always is.
That said, it’s certainly better sung and acted than usual. Rolando Villazón is here on top form, fleshing out the notes with alternate delicacy and vehemence and personifying the shy, frustrated hero with a Chaplinesque range of gesture and mannerism; he even gets an encore for ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, carrying off the whole gratifying moment with impeccable judgement.
María Bayo is equally accomplished, her voice dancing gracefully around Donizetti’s score while her sophisticated, observant characterisation is intelligently delivered.
Jean-Luc Chaignaud is less vocally accomplished as Belcore – the voice is not quite in the same league – though he portrays the military sergeant’s level of bumptious self-adoration to a nicety.
Bruno Praticò underplays, if anything, the traditional buffo antics of Dulcamara, though the character’s marketing skills and fluent sales patter are well sketched in. The chorus knows exactly what it is doing from moment to moment.
In the pit conductor Daniele Callegari sounds entirely at ease with the idioms of Donizetti’s delightful score, whose blend of high spirits with tenderness registers perfectly. George Hall