Italian opera meets the Australian outback when Donizetti's tongue-in-cheek, heart-on-sleeve tale of a shy boy and a bold girl returns in this cheeky production directed by Simon Phillips.
Simon Phillip's much-loved production of The Elixir of Love is set in an Australian country town circa 1915.
"If you're doing a comic opera it's useful to get it as close to a contemporary world as you legitimately can," he says, "because that affords you the possibility of laughs of recognition as well as situation."
So how does the story of Elixir pan out down under? There's Adina, the squatter's daughter who wants to play the field before settling down. There's Nemorino, the lovestruck labourer who loves reading romantic poetry in his spare time. There's Belcore, the English officer who fancies having a fine young lady on his arm. Then there's the travelling larrikin, Dulcamara, who offers to solve everyone's problems with a drop of the good stuff.
As Phillips points out, the regiment of soldiers and all the talk of conscription mean that a modern adaptation would have jarred, but setting the story in Australia in 1915 provides a rich vein of comic material to add to the mix. It also inspired set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell and costume designer Gabriela Tylesova to come up with one of Opera Australia's favourite entrances when our heroine, Adina, rides into town on a corrugated iron horse.
Best of all, a knockout cast — Rachelle Durkin, Aldo Di Toro and Conal Coad — means that Donizetti's music shines as brightly as ever under the Antipodean skies.
"It's bright, it's bucolic, and it'll be a barrel of laughs," says Phillips.
Once a jolly doctor
rode into a country town
Handing out potions
and pills for a fee
And he sang as the soldiers
and gentle folk all gathered round
Who'll come a-wooing Adina with me?
Enjoy dinner before the show at Arts Centre Melbourne
Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a three-course set menu for just $55, including matched wine. View the menu
Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets for The Elixir of Love.
Listen to 'Una furtiva lagrima' from The Elixir of Love
|Revival Director||Matthew Barclay|
|Set Designer||Michael Scott-Mitchell|
|Costume Designer||Gabriela Tylesova|
|Lighting Designer||Nick Schlieper|
|Nemorino||Aldo Di Toro|
Running time: approximately 2 hours & 30 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.
Performed in Italian with English surtitles.
It is harvest time. Farm labourers take a break from the blazing noonday heat. Nemorino, a shepherd, hopelessly yearns for the love of Adina, who is a wealthy tenant farmer. She sits in the cool, perusing her book, the story of Isolde and of the magician who gave Tristan such a powerful love potion that Isolde never left him again. Adina and Nemorino (not to mention all the villagers) both fantasise about trying such an elixir, for different reasons.
Belcore, a sergeant at the head of a troop of soldiers, arrives. Nemorino watches helplessly as Belcore tries his best to capture Adina’s heart. Adina flirtatiously plays along with him and brushes off Nemorino’s desperate attempts to plead his own case.
Dulcamara, a travelling 'doctor', arrives in the district to much excitement. He advertises his universal elixir, which he claims will cure anything. Nemorino asks the doctor if he sells the famous love potion mentioned in Adina's book, The Elixir of Love. Dulcamara provides him with a worthless substitute, promising it will take effect after twenty-four hours, which gives him time to make good his escape.
Nemorino swallows the so-called love potion, and as he drinks his confidence grows. He is now certain that the elixir will make Adina fall in love with him. When Adina appears, Nemorino feigns disinterest and she is astonished by the sudden change in his behaviour.
By the time Belcore returns, Adina is so infuriated by Nemorino's apparent indifference to her that she accepts Belcore's proposal of marriage. The wedding is set for one week’s time. Nemorino rejoices in the knowledge that within a day the potion will have worked and Adina will have no choice but to love him.
Giannetta and other girls from the village arrive with the soldiers who have received a message that the troops must make an immediate withdrawal. In order that the wedding may still go ahead, Adina agrees to get married later that same day. Nemorino is distraught and cries out for the help of Doctor Dulcamara. The others revel in the prospect of the wedding festivities and mock Nemorino’s despair.
The celebrations are in progress.
By now Nemorino is desperate for the love potion to take its effect. Dulcamara assures him that a second dose of the elixir will speed up the process but Nemorino has no idea how to raise the money to buy an extra bottle.
Belcore returns, puzzled that Adina has delayed the wedding ceremony until later that evening. When he discovers that Nemorino is depressed about a cash shortage, he offers to sign him up for the army in return for a substantial down payment. Nemorino can now afford a double dose of the potion and Belcore is delighted to have enlisted his rival.
News has reached the village that Nemorino's rich uncle has died, leaving him a fortune. Giannetta and the village girls now flock around Nemorino, which he interprets as a sign that the elixir is working. Seeing Nemorino surrounded by admirers, Adina begins to feel jealous, and realising that Nemorino has joined the army out of devotion to her, she finally admits to herself that she loves him.
Dulcamara explains to Adina that he is responsible for Nemorino's popularity with the girls, as he sold him a love potion. He offers Adina a bottle of the same, but she refuses, preferring to reply on her own natural charm to win Nemorino.
Adina buys Nemorino a discharge from the army and presents it to him. When Nemorino refuses to accept it, Adina is forced to declare her love for him and they are united at last.
Nemorino is in love with Adina, but she's rich and he's poor, and Adina won't give him the time of day. After hearing the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Nemorino wonders if a love potion might do the trick.
Cue the arrival in town of Dulcamara, travelling larrikin and purveyor of a bottled cure-all that might just do the trick.
But time is running out - Adina has agreed to marry the pompous Sergeant Belcore. Will the potion work? Will Dulcamara get out of town before anyone discovers it doesn't? Will Nemorino get his girl?
Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 5.30pm at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a three-course set menu for just $55, including matched wine.
Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets.
Double smoked Petuna salmon, cauliflower mascarpone, gaufrette potato, chive oil
& salmon pearls
with a glass of Mt Langi Ghiran Cliff Pinot Gris
Chicken liver parfait, port wine prunes, brioche toast & wild cress
with a glass of Yering Station Estate Chardonnay
Roast fillet of beef, butternut squash, duck fat fondant, pencil leeks & jus
with a glass of Mt Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Cabernet
Confit supreme of chicken, braised leg raviolo & petits pois à la
with a glass of Yering Station Village Pinot Noir
Frozen nougat heart, cherry gel, raspberry meringues with pistachio soil &
with tea or coffee
Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.