The Glyndebourne Opera Tour of 2019 - l'elisir d'Amore, Rigoletto and Rinaldo
By Timea Koppandi and Danai Paraskevopoulou
Do you believe in the elixir of love? In the 19th century in a small Italian village we are introduced to Nemorino, a poor peasant who is in love with Adina, a beautiful landowner. The opera starts with Adina reading and mocking the love of Tristan and Isolde, which is the result of a love potion. When a handsome soldier named Belcore enters the stage, he promises Adina that they will be married. Nemorino takes the courage to express his love to Adina, but she tells him that they will never settle down, yet he insists he will love her all his life and always be faithful to her. Dr Dulcamara enters the stage and attracts the attention of the whole village selling them forged treatments for beauty and health. Nemorino asks him to give him a ‘magic’ drink in order to make Adina love him back. Dulcamara sells him an ‘elixir of love’ which is actually a bottle of cheap wine. Nemorino drinks the ‘elixir’ and then the misunderstandings begin.
Benedetta Torre (Adina) was unquestionably shown to be the star of the show, the strength of her crystal voice attracted all of our attention towards her. Sehoon Moon (Nemorino) also stood out as a clear and powerful voice in this performance. He captured the subtlest nuances with his voice, and his stage presence complimented that of Adina’s. Dr Dulcamara’s assistant played by Maxime Nourissat was the ‘Joker’ of the opera. Without singing his excellent mimicking brought laughter to the audience.
Another interesting part of the opera was the way the Italian villagers recreated an ancient Greek chorus. The stage design was realistic, simple and very clever due to the way it was structured, creating the illusion that the stage was more spacious than its actual size. The costumes designs immediately transport us into the world of Italy 19th century. The romantic story would be nothing without the live orchestra; the music was faithful and brought the audience into the atmosphere of the melodramatic story.
Donizetti was one of the best tragic opera writers but in ‘L’elixir d’amore’ we experience the realistic, playful story of a heartbroken man, who is willing to do whatever it takes to marry the love of his life. This opera reflects how love can serve as an excuse for an individual to go to great lengths and act based on impulse rather than thought.
The three acts opera by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi has been put into an innovative witty setting, demonstrating how the problems that humanity faces remain the same whilst the setting changes. The dramatic story of the hunched-back court jester Rigoletto, has been transported from the 16th century Mantua to a setting which indicated the roaring twenties. The opera narrates the love Gilda - Rigoletto’s daughter - has for the late Duke of Mantua, who is introduced to her as a poor student. Rigoletto has advised his daughter not to leave the house alone and despite his best efforts to protect Gilda, she has fallen in love with the Duke of Mantua. A tough and frivolous ruler, the Duke’s only concern is the conquest of the women in the region.
Nikoloz Lagvilava (Rigoletto) did not only amaze the audience with his voice, but also with his acting skills. His performance had incredible strength, his baritone voice completed the atmosphere and it complimented the music beautifully. His performance was honest, true to its character and simply beautiful. Even though he is a jester, in truth he is forced to smile, to fake the laughter only to reveal a very serious and broken man. We could clearly see three different stages of his life; as a young man, older man and as an old man who is struggling with a curse. The role of Gilda was perfectly performed by Vuvu Mpofu as we see her very tender, sweet and sincere; a character who gained complexity from the original, almost childlike innocence of the dramatic ending. With her clarity of performance, flawless tonal accuracy, tasteful melodic phrasing, centre and volume of voice, she blossomed to ideal heights for this score and provided enduring and unconditional enjoyment.
In the exuberant, liberating stage light embodying the womanizer Duke of Mantua stood the tenor Matteo Lippi: a singer with a rich, homogeneous youthful voice, peculiarly soft and sweet. The stage design was by Christian Tabakoff and it was amazing! We could constantly see the stage changing from scene to scene and as a result it was very exciting to see how the space of the stage transforms during the story. The sound of the orchestra, accurate and well-focused, was led by Richard Milone with the right vigour and style. The opera had a great combination of love story, thriller, drama and ending with a fantastic plot.
An unusual opera slipped into the autumn schedule of the Glyndebourne Tour. Handle’s Rinaldo hardly
makes an appearance on the stages, and there are a number of reasons why it is a very difficult opera to perform and stage, as well as to attend to. Apart from the fact that the storyline is not very appealing to modern audiences, the score is very difficult to listen to and to sing as well. Not only does it have a musical style that is over-weighted with various repetitions of the same musical part, but the discrepancy between the styles also make it difficult for the viewer to associate themselves with the storyline. There is an element of foreignness to the entirety of the opera, and that is due to the nature of the story.
The valiant Rinaldo starts out on a quest to save Almirena, his lover, from the evil Queen Armida who has kidnapped her. The narrative of revenge starts early in the opera, however it turns into a love triangle when Queen Armida falls in love with Rinaldo. Despite the fact that many of the social interactions are based on instant trust, honesty and honour – things which don’t hold the same weight as they did – the plot still makes sense to a modern audience.
One of the longest opera’s we have ever attended, three hours and a few minutes, Rinaldo had an absolutely amazing cast! Jacquelyn Stucker (Armida) absolutely conquered the stage with her impressive high notes, the strength of the sound and the ease with which she jumped between registers. Jake Arditti (Rinaldo) and James Hall (Goffredo) have also impressed the audience with their performance. Their execution of the piece truly shined and they have most certainly left their mark on it, with their balanced tonal performance varying from subtle nuances to powerful high notes.
The modern take that the writing team of Glyndebourne has decided to go with, refreshed the entirety of the show. Having the story reimagined as the dream of a schoolboy, transforms the progression of the story in the eyes of the audience and draws them closer to the plot. The staging had been absolutely amazing, and the way they have thought through the representation of certain elements. Overall, the performance was truly engaging and the setting captivated the attention of the audience, however things such as the music and the storyline did exhaust the attention of the viewer.
Images courtesy of Gylndebourne.com