L'elisir d'amore on Decca DVD
by Peter Grahame Woolf

L'elisir d'amore
Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Roberto Scaltriti, Simone Alaimo, Elena Dan
Orchestre et Choeur de l'Opera National de Lyon
Conductor: Evelino Pido
Stage Director: Frank Dunlop
Director for Video: Brian Large
Region 2 encoding (Europe, Middle East & Japan only) PAL, Widescreen, Subtitled
126 mins + Film Love Potion 52 mins Decca 074 103-9

A perennially favourite romantic comedy, L'elisir d'amore is a brilliantly told tale of difficulties that men and women have in communicating with each other, and this superb DVD is as heart-warming a presentation of Donizetti's happy ending as home viewers could wish for. The starring couple, darlings of the opera world, had only been married a few months before it was filmed, and it shows in their rapport and almost subliminal gestures of affection on stage, and more obviously in the Love Potion film.

Comedy was a new venture for Gheorgiu and she instils real joy into her roulades. Alagna is a skilful actor and points up the fun with subtlety throughout, adjusting the scale of his gestures and expression perfectly for the camera. Both sing in these roles, tailor made for them, as well as any now before the public. Scaltriti swaggers outrageously as the over-confident suitor Belcore and Alaimo makes a great deal of the itinerant alternative physician, dispensing cheap wine and preying on the gullibility of uneducated rural villagers. Evelino Pido has a sure grasp of the score and Frank Dunlop's stage production, updated to the 1920s, works well and is expertly captured in Brian Large's direction for video (Lyon Opera has long maintained a policy of filming their productions so that they can be enjoyed world-wide).

After the run at Lyon, the theatre was stripped and draped to create an audio ambience and the whole opera re-rehearsed intensively with scrupulous attention to the detail required for the microphone. Traditional cuts were opened and for the CDs (DECCA 455 691-2DHO2) Alagna even recorded Donizzeti's later version of Una furtive lagrima in a lower key as an extra, though in the event that track was not released. Derek Bailey's supplementary film Love Potion is an entertaining documentary, informative on many aspects of the processes of creating this great production, with thoughtful opinions from all concerned. It is uncommonly illuminating, especially for the insight it brings into the differences between filming and audio recording.

Peter Grahame Woolf is a classical music writer based in London.

© Peter Grahame Woolf 2002.

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