BWW Reviews: THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, King's Head Theatre, December 6 2014

OperaUpClose, after over four years at the King's Head Theatre, is striking out for pastures new, but they're bidding their first home farewell with a valedictory season comprising three of their most well-received works. La Boheme and The Barber of Seville are up next, but the long goodbye begins with Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, adapted with some wit by Thomas Eccleshare and directed with verve by Valentina Ceschi.

Adina (Sarah Minns in saucy mood) is 1950s Hollywood's flavour of the month, her name kept in the gossip columns courtesy of her friend Gianetta (a pixieish Louise Lloyd). She's courted by soldier-boy Belcore (a swaggering Richard Immergluck) but adored by her pool attendant (and aspirant scriptwriter) Nemorino (a lovelorn Philip Lee). When snake oil salesman, sorry, purveyor of skin treatments to the stars, Dulcamara (Dickon Gough in top comic form) rolls up with his "Elixir of Love", the very potion that Isolde used to captivate Tristan, Nemorino seizes his chance to make himself irresistible to Adina. Somehow, things work out.

Elixir is a fine choice for a farewell, as it has the stamp of OperaUpClose all over it. The setting is innovative but perfectly suited to the source material; the singing is precise and thrillingly proximate; and the music (under Elspeth Gibbons on piano) complements the voices beautifully and stays loyal to Donzitetti's original. Leavened with humour, it's the ideal introduction to opera for those who believe it's all about waiting for the fat lady to clear her throat. It's such fun!

The Elixir of Love continues at the King's head until 13 December with La Boheme scheduled from 16 December to 4 January before the Barber of Seville closes the season from 6 January to 17 January.

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From This Author Gary Naylor

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