WORKS: L’elisir d’amore (in English)
PERFORMER: Mary Plazas, Helen Williams, Barry Banks, Ashley Holland, Andrew Shore; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3027(2)
Recordings of Italian opera in English live or die by their translations. This account, based on English National Opera’s 1998 production, uses a creditable version by Arthur Jacobs. Bar the odd excruciating rhyme, it is admirably in the spirit of both Donizetti’s delicious score and Felice Romani’s original text (some of which was a literal translation of Eugène Scribe’s libretto for Auber’s Le philtre). Much of Dulcamara’s great buffo patter song ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’, infelicitously rendered as ‘Attention! Attention! You country folk’, is almost worthy of WS Gilbert: you can’t help but smile at a couplet that rhymes ‘cuticle’ with ‘scorbutical’ (affected with scurvy, in case you’re interested). But English, with its blunt consonants, lends itself better to patter than lyricism: the opera’s signature tune, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, comes out much too wordy and not at all euphonic as ‘Only one teardrop glistened here’; and all those inserted ‘ah-yes’s to make lines scan are intrusive.
Still, this is a perfectly engaging performance: charmingly sung and effervescently played. But I don’t know why you would want it when you could be listening to Sutherland and Pavarotti singing in Italian instead. Claire Wrathall