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L’ELISIR D’AMORE

lelisir damore, bargaintheatreland, kings head theatre, london, reviewOpera Up Close is a company dedicated to bringing classical operas to a modern audience and Donizetti’s romantic comedy L’elisir D’amore (The Elixir of Love), does not disappoint. Updated from the 18th century Basque Country to the golden age of 1950s Hollywood, the story opens with a glamorous pool party hosted by the famous actress Adina (Prudence Sanders) and her fiancé Belcore (Simon Meadows). We are soon introduced to the poolboy-come-screenwriter Nemorino (Philip Lee), who is hopelessly and heartbreakingly besotted with Adina and so buys a ‘love potion’ (a Gin Fizz) from the much sought after stylist, Dulcamara (Matthew Stiff) – the brains behind Marilyn Monroe’s mole. Matters are complicated when the pending wedding between Belcore and Adina is moved up ahead of schedule, so Nemorino sells his life to the army in order to pay for another potion (more Gin Fizz) that will work in a more timely manner.

This new version, conceived by Valentina Cecshi with libretto translated into English by Thomas Eccleshare, is marvellously funny; maintaining all the key points of the story whilst keeping the humour bang up to date, which the cast convey excellently with clear diction and good comic timing. Sanders sings beautifully, and is a pleasure to watch as she toys with the men’s affections. Both Stiff and Eleanor Ross who plays Adina’s friend, Gianetta, have some excellent comic moments throughout. The company are so strong it’s hard to believe that it’s only a five-hander, their voices fill the space so fully it’s a wonder there’s room for an audience too. I recommend this show to get rid of those winter blues. Completely frothy and hilarious, I don’t think there was a single audience member who didn’t leave grinning from ear to ear.

The band consisting of John Gibbons on piano, Frances Higgs on viola and Rachael Moorhead on saxophone are on stage throughout which really adds the 50s ambience. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of the saxophone, bringing not just the words but also the music into a more modern time.

Kate Lane’s set design is very clever. To make use of limited space, a vertical pool complete with vertical lilo is used to great comic effect.

I’m just blown over by how Opera Up Close turns a piece that might be seen as dated or inaccessible, into something that is approachable and, above all, relevant to an audience today.  I doubt that you would have seen an opera like this before and that’s without even mentioning the 3D glasses! This is the second Opera Up Close production the I’ve been to see and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it won’t be the last!

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Reviewed 13/02/13

By Amy Lawrence
@AmyELawence

5th Feb – 16th Mar 2013
The King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.

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