Sunshine show of wit and charm

The Elixir of Love, by Opera North @ Theatre Royal, Norwich.

The Elixir of Love, by Opera North @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

By Charles Roberts

This exuberantly fresh look at Donizetti's comic masterpiece is an elixir indeed. It lifts the spirits through its pace, its directorial wit, its happy cohesion of singing and acting – and in its delightfully sunny disposition.

From the instant that the curtain goes up, the warmth and sunshine welcome us in.

The scene – and a splendid idea it is – is the terrace of an Italian hotel where all the town appears to meet – doctor, priest, lawyer, and everybody down to the local, batty eccentric.

Even before the chorus have opened their mouths, we are smiling broadly and ready to be entertained. And entertained we are.

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Conveniently, our desirable heroine of the piece, Adina, is patronne of the hotel. In Mary Hegarty's interpretation, she is vital, strong of character and effortlessly sexy; and sung with an exciting relish for Donizetti's showpiece, swooping flights and runs of notes.

Our anti-hero who becomes hero, Nemorino, is drawn and deepened by Paul Nilon in an admirable fusion of actorly character study and lyric tenor sound, controlled and sure.

Richard Whitehouse's Belcore is transmogrified into a dishy Italian navy captain, in all-whites and dark-glasses, with the charm of a black cobra. Then there is the conman, Dr Dulcamara, as realised by Christopher Purves, in a hugely enjoyable comic study.