The Elixir of Love

Date 6th November 2021
Society Opera Viva (Merseyside)
Venue St Mary's College, Everest Road, Crosby, Merseyside
Type of Production Opera
Musical Director Melvin Tay
Producer Jim Craig


Author: Jim Briscoe

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE an opera performed by Opera Viva at St Mary’s College, Everest Rd, Crosby on Saturday, 6th November 2021.
This was my first ever visit to a ‘live opera’ and all I could think about on my way there was the conversation that Richard Gere had with Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’ … “People's reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it.  If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul” …I really could not wait and I wasn’t to be disappointed!

The Elixir of Love (L'elisir d'amore) is a ‘melodramma giocoso’ (opera buffa – a comic opera) performed in two acts and was composed by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti.Felice Romani wrote the italian libretto, after Eugene Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's Le philtre (es)  (1831). The opera premiered on 12 May,1832 at the Teatro Della.

The storyline centres on a poor peasant called Nemorino who pines for the beautiful, wealthy Adina, who shows him nothing but indifference.  When he hears the story of "Tristan and Isolde," and the love potion that causes the title characters to fall madly in love, Nemorino wonders if such a potion exists and finds a con man, Dr Dulcamara, who gladly sells him a "potion" that is nothing but wine!  The usual comic hijinks ensue; Nemorino thinks the potion has made him more desirable to Adina, but she has had feelings for him all along.  So Nemorino sings "Una furtiva lagrima" in the opera's second act when he discovers that Adina cares for him after all.  He sees what he thinks is a tear in her eye (the name of the aria translates to "a secret tear").

I was made aware some twelve, eighteen months ago of Opera Viva’s intention to stage this opera, but as we all know, the last eighteen months have thrown up many, many challenges.  I think we all feared that this production may never happen, so, to finally get it to stage, in four different locations across Merseyside and the Wirral has obviously taken a real team effort not only from the cast and committee but from everyone involved and they should all be equally congratulated.

So, having said all that, it now feels slightly inappropriate to start identifying individuals without doing injustice to others, but I do feel it would be remiss of me not to give just a few ‘call outs’…
Simona Furdui took on the lead role of ‘Adina’ a beautiful, wealthy, flirtatious, popular woman. This was an outstanding performance!   Simona is blessed with wonderful stage presence, natural comic timing, great characterisation skills and a voice that you would genuinely kill for. Never out of character, in complete control throughout, well done young lady!  Alexandra Thackray took on the role of ‘Gianetta’ a friend of Adina.  Alexandra provided us with another great characterisation, flirtatious at times which added to the character; confident, blessed with stage presence aplenty and a wonderful singing voice. Be ever so proud!  Freddie Ligertwood took on the role of ‘Belcore’ an arrogant, slick, slimy Sergeant, who waltzes into town, sweeps ‘Adina’ off her feet and proposes marriage!  A few nerves to start with possibly, but as the production developed, so did his confidence and his characterisation which resulted in a great performance.  Again, great stage presence and a good singing voice, be ever so proud young man.
Steve Riordan took on the role of Doctor Dulcamara the smooth-talking salesman who could no doubt sell ice to Eskimos!  Great stage presence, great facial expression, great comic timing, gave the character life and was another blessed with a great singing voice, well done sir, great job!  But the ‘Show-Stealer’ for me was Nick Hardy who took on the male lead role of ‘Nemorino’ the shy, unassuming hero, whose name literally translates as ‘little nobody’ an exceptional performance!  He had me, and I believe the rest of the audience, enthralled from his first entrance to his last.  Confident, great characterisation, magnetic stage presence, another with a voice to kill for. It was an absolute privilege to witness this performance. Many congrats, sir!

Heather Sinclair played Dulcamara’s Assistant, Marian Yates played ‘The Notary’.
'The Ensemble’ included Pamela Armstrong, Irene Baker, Pauline Barry, Lauren Estis,
Philomena Golding, Clare Hyams, Karen Hawkins, Jan Monkley, Annette Reis Dunne, Yvonne Ross, Greta Southern, Marie Williams, Keith Davenport, David Gilmore, Andrew James, Philip Johnson, Walter Rogers, Howard Yates.  You could just feel, as they made their first entrance that the ensemble was ready to perform.  They supported the ‘principals’ really well and their efforts were rewarded by a vocal audience. Congratulations one and all!

I was fortunate to be seated so I could see the orchestra under the ‘watchful eye’ of the versatile young Singaporean Conductor, Melvin Tay.  The orchestra: Megan Thompson 1st Violin., Julia Sandros-Alper 2nd Violin., Flora Farquharson and Tom Broadbent on Viola., James Heathcote on Cello, Aron Jonasson on Bass and ‘Opera Viva’s’ very own Robert Chesters as Principal Accompanist all of whom were superb!  It was a ‘privilege’ to be able to watch and listen these brilliant musicians at work and to watch Tay in total control.  His ability to just ‘hold’ the orchestra and to see them wait for his next ‘direction’ - it was like watching a magician at work. In awe!  Thank you so much – be ever so proud!  

If I may, and please do not take this as a criticism, but could I draw your attention to one small detail.  It was noticeable, on several occasions, that performers were closely watching the Musical Director for possibly cues and timing and, although this did not detract from the overall performance, I do think it is something that should be borne in mind for the future!

The Staging and Lighting were minimal, but used to great effect.  The costumes were wonderfully colourful and appropriate for the era and production - congrats to Viv Sharp (Artist Director).

Finally, every ‘team’ needs a leader, so congratulations to Jim Craig our Producer.  I cannot think how difficult a job this must have been, so be proud sir and be proud everyone. Your efforts in getting this production to stage were without doubt so worthwhile!

Thank you so much for inviting me, for your warm welcome and your hospitality. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Stay safe, keep well…

Jim Briscoe
District 6 Representative