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With its light-hearted plot, it is too easy for small opera companies to perform L'Elisir d'Amore as an enjoyable romp, without taking account of the fact that the opera's principals need to be as technically adept as in any of the serious Donizetti operas. We had no such worries at Grange Park where both Lee and Joyce gave us fully rounded, musical portraits.

Victoria Joyce as Adina in 'L'Elisir d'Amore' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Victoria Joyce as Adina in 'L'Elisir d'Amore' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

The first hint of colour comes into this monochrome world with the advent of Sergeant Belcore (Quentin Hayes). In this production Belcore loses his troop of soldiers and has to make do with a single squaddy. Hayes caught Belcore's self-confident, boastful manner splendidly and introduced just the right feeling of someone from the bigger, wider world. Admittedly, his singing of fioriture was apt to be smudged, but given Belcore's confident bluster, you forgave him.

The stage really lights up when Dulcamara (Eric Roberts) enters, driving his ice-cream van. Here Dulcamara is something of a spiv, selling ice creams, quack remedies and anything else people want. Roberts caught this beautifully and his Dulcamara was seedily attractive. Unfortunately I found his singing manner rather dry. His singing of Dulcamara's patter was effective rather than astounding, but he did not project the music well in ensembles. This was a shame because dramatically, Roberts was very apt.

Quentin Hayes as Belcore and Victoria Joyce as Adina in 'L'Elisir d'Amore' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Quentin Hayes as Belcore and Victoria Joyce as Adina in 'L'Elisir d'Amore' at Grange Park Opera. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

A rather effective conceit of the production is that gradually, throughout the second act, light and colour comes into the stage picture (and into the lives of the inhabitants); the grey skies turn blue and even the mill lights up.

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Copyright © 20 June 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK

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