Theatre review: L’Elisir D’Amore at King’s Head Theatre

Marc Callahan and Una Reynolds in L'Elisir D'Amore. Photo: Christopher Tribble

Marc Callahan and Una Reynolds in L'Elisir D'Amore. Photo: Christopher Tribble - Credit: Archant

Sumptuous production of Donizetti’s opera is just the tonic for freezing February

Una Reynolds and Marc Callahan in L'Elisir D'Amore. Photo: Christopher Tribble

Una Reynolds and Marc Callahan in L'Elisir D'Amore. Photo: Christopher Tribble - Credit: Archant

It may be a relatively clichéd story – the heartache and tribulations of a love unrequited, doubled with bitter acrimony from a love rival – but this sumptuous rendition of Donizetti’s opera is a joy to behold.

The 1832 Basque Country opera, which is translated as “The Elixir of Love”, has been successfully shifted to 1950s New York by librettist Thomas Eccleshare and director Valentina Ceschi.

It centres on Adina, the biggest star in Hollywood, and the warring love interests of Nemorino, her gardener and poolboy, and Belcore, her fiancé.

With staging that oozes the balmy glow of a summer’s evening, love-sick Nemorino takes the opportunity to turn to the stylist Dulcamara for a solution to his romantic woes.


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Rather than putting forward the certifiable cure that he does not have, Dulcamara hastily creates a cocktail and passes it off on Nemorino who guzzles it gladly. What unfolds is a shifting picture of affection, desire, hope and fear.

It must be said, despite containing a timeless set of themes, this is a relatively lightweight romantic tale.

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But such is the exuberance emanating from the stage that any resistance is wonderfully futile.

Be prepared to be seduced by the generous humour, heartfelt yearning and finger-clicking showmanship on display.

Confidently glamorous, effortlessly stylish and expertly delivered, this production is a potent potion. Book yourself a ticket and wash away the dank, freezing cold of February and March with the joyful L’Elisir D’Amore.

* L’Elisir D’Amore is at the King’s Head Theatre in Upper Street, Islington, until March 16.

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