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l'elisir d-amore, london, bargaintheatreland reviewThe Battersea Barge certainly provides a fitting setting for this unique staging of Gaetano Donizetti’s Opera. The quaint bar inside the barge scattered with candles and props makes for a very interesting atmosphere, although unfortunately did very little acoustically. However, the singers’ high quality voices did more than enough to counter balance this.

The concept of Pop-Up Opera, formed in 2011 by the producer of L’Elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) Clementine Lovell, is to maintain the musical quality of operatic performance but make it accessible and enjoyable. This relatively new company, whose productions have been performed in unconventional locations across Italy and Britain, does exactly what it says on the tin. Through the clever use of costumes, props and hilarious translation slides, the company modernize plots and squeeze out every last joke the composer has interwoven. After an invitation to partake in an orchestral piece played on teacups before the show began, I was sold.

L’Elisir d’amore tells the tale of café proprietor Adina and kitchen boy Nemorino who is madly in love with her. When his affections are not returned he drinks what he thinks is an elixir or love, which he gets from a travelling doctor, to make him irresistible. Clementine Lovell is amusing as Adina, particularly when she becomes jealous following Nemorino’s newfound confidence fearing that his affections may have waned. Her voice is beautiful and carries well in the space considering.

Cliff Zammit- Stevens is impressive as Nemorino, particularly during his performance of ‘Una Furtiva Lagrima’ (A Furtive Tear), which is a welcome opportunity to platform his sincerity as an actor as well as his voice. Soprano Penelope Manser gives a very watchable, playful and tongue in cheek performance as Gianetta, the waitress at the Café d’Amore. Her giggling is quite infectious invoking many laughs for her over the top seduction tactics aimed at Nemorino in Act 2. Ricardo Panela as businessman Belcore has a strong voice and his attempts at wooing Adina (aided by purposely mis-translations: “I’ll give you my card, yeah?”) are very witty.

Thomas Kennedy’s (Dulcamara) stage presence is the most commanding of the cast. He engages easily with the audience and his acting, though still somewhat melodramatic (which suited the piece), is of a high quality. It would be nice to see him in a tragic opera or musical; his voice is outstanding.

Interwoven into this array of beautiful singing is oodles of audience participation led by director Darren Royston, who is charming, warm and of course; very entertaining. It is clear that all of the singers are highly trained professionals; their vocal technique is remarkable.

I imagine that Pop-Up Opera will continue to flourish; a truly exciting and relevant conception.  The company return to London in May with Donzetti’s Don Pasquale, performing in various venues including the Brunel Tunnels.

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Reviewed 24/04/13

By Emily Mae Winters

24th Apr 2013
Battersea Barge, London, SW8.


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