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Donizetti, L'Elisir d'Amore: Soloists, Orquesta de la Comunitat Valenciana, Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana. Conductor: Omer Meir Wellber. Palau de Les Arts de Valencia. 26. 3.2011 (JMI)

New production in coproduction with Madrid Teatro Real

Direction: Damiano Michieletto

Sets: Paolo Fantin

Costumes: Silvia Aymonino

Lighting: Alessandro Carletti


Nemorino: Ramón Vargas

Adina: Aleksandra Kurzak

Dulcamara: Erwin Schrott

Belcore: Fabio Cpitanucci

Gianetta: Ilona mataradze

Adina's Bar - Ramon Vargas (Nemorino) and Aleksandra Kurzak (Adina)
Picture © Tato Baeza

Valencia closes its regular season with Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, which is always a hit with the public, but the music isn't over in Valencia. Next month there will be Boito's Mefistofele in concert and in May/June the Mediterranean Festival will take place with Zubin Mehta conducting Tosca and Fidelio and two starry casts.

The new production of L'Elisir is that of Italian Damiano Michieletto. It seems that stage directors agree on their views of this opera, placing the action at hotels, bars, hotel bars, or restaurants. In December we saw in Oviedo Daniel Slater's production, set in a hotel in the 60s. New York City Opera is offering the Jonathan Miller production, which takes place in a gas station in the U.S., also in the 60's. Here in Valencia, Mr. Michieletto puts the action in a beach bar, Adina's Bar, and in modern times. The start of the show is promising. Too promising as it turns out. In front of us we have a beach full of sunbathers, with the bar in the foreground and a stage full of color. Adina is the owner of the bar, Nemorino is one of the life guards, Belcore is a sergeant in the Army and, finally, Dulcamara is a drug dealer who sells a canned 'Elexir' - Red Bull laced with cocaine, for all I know. In the second act stage left is occupied by a large plastic sled filled with foam. Everything is in continuous motion, which can get rather annoying to the singers. Nemorino sings his aria from the roof of Adina's bar. Dulcamara is a kind of pimp, besides a drug dealer, for which his interpretation is rather too childish. The best moment of the production takes place at the end of the opera, when the police arrive with dogs searching for drugs and Dulcamara delivers his drug bags inadvertently to Belcore. In Damiano Michieletto's direction there is an excess of action which his protagonists meet with a lack of spontaneity.

The musical director, Meir Omer Wellber, was very disappointing to me. There are plenty of experts who think this opera is easy to conduct. I don't share that opinion and after this performance, I think Mr. Wellber shares that opinion. In the hands of an inappropriate conductor, it can very easily become astonishingly boring. And something like that happened in this case. I have the impression that the most promising maestro Wellber has not taken the score seriously enough on this occasion, perhaps considering it a minor opera. In any case, the result lacked grace and lightness, grated with and excess of routine and its evident lack of coordination between stage and pit. I did not expect this result from such a promising conductor. And while there is no question the Orchestra de la Comunitat Valenciana is the best in Spain, it didn't show on this occasion.

Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas was Nemorino and I was not moved by his singing. He is still a light-lyric tenor, although he is more and more involved in a heavier repertoire. His timbre is quite remarkable in the middle, but his top has become much thinner than before. At least he is still an elegant singer with outstanding phrasing.

Young Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak sufficed as Adina with her impersonal voice but fine acting. Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott has become a very popular artist. Still, I did not like his Dulcamara. Apart from the pure conception of the character - whether Michieletto's vision or his own - he overacted constantly on stage and he insisted to show that he has a big voice, ever singing at full volume. That's too far from the insidious Dulcamara. I couldn't help thinking of Malatesta in Don Pasquale, when Norina is rehearsing for him and he says to her sister: "No,no, la parte non è questa". It was more effectual than effective singing, and it worked, since the audience lapped it up and cheered him more than any other artist. Fabio Capitanucci was a good Belcore, well suited in vocal terms and a good actor as well. Gianetta was Ilona Mataradze, young and promising.

José Mª Irurzun

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