Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elisir d'amore in Lille

Opéra de Lille: pretty building both inside and outside

Director ..... Richard Brunel
Conductor ..... Antonello Allemandi

Olga Peretyatko ..... Adina
Bülent Bezdüz ..... Nemorino
Guido Loconsolo ..... Belcore
Renato Girolami ..... Dulcamara
Hanna Bayodi-Hirt ..... Giannetta

Picardie Orchestra and Lille Opera Choir

Per questo mio specifico Simpatico, prolifico,  
Un uom settuagenario E valetudinario,
Nonno di dieci bamboli Ancora diventò,  
Per questo “Tocca e sana” In breve settimana  
Più d’un’afflitta vedova Di piangere cessò.
O voi matrone rigide, Ringiovanir bramate ?
Le vostre rughe incomode Con esso cancellate.  
Volete voi donzelle, Ben liscia aver la pelle ?  
Voi giovani galanti Per sempre avere amanti ?  
Comprate il mio specifico, Per poco io ve lo do.

Dulcamara, L'elisir d'amore

Richard Brunel is one of those rare birds in France who knows how to produce good shows. A few years back he directed a very good production of "Albert Herring" for Opéra Comique in Paris [memorable cast including a phenomenal Allan Clayton.] At the time I was unhappy by the basic setting and the fact that the Britten's story was not applied where it can be applied to today, namely to a community of conservative immigrant families that you can see in any big city's suburbs today. Otherwise that show showed that Brunel was good and knows his job very well (clarity of the unfolded story, precision in guiding the singers/actors, no dead time in passing from one scene to another), and many details indicated that he was capable of going beyond trivial narrative stage action. L'elisir d'amore in Lille was even better a test because this opera is difficult to stage 'nontrivially' without crewing up the action. Now, after we could see his show, I believe Richard Brunel is one of the best French directors right now. I hope we'll soon see him producing some more engaging opera.

Belcanto operas are hard to stage either because of the extremely poor or badly sewn up librettos requiring magicians to turn them into dramatically appealing shows, or because the action & (2 dimensional) characters are locked by libretto and very little liberty is in director's hands to give them any sort of depth. L'elisir d'amore is in this second class. If you get to produce something cheerful to be in synch with the score, and add a little depth to the action and/or characters then you're really good. I will not go through the Richard Brunel's show and describe the details. In this production Adina is an attractive young girl who runs a modern day farm. Nemorino is one of the field workers and is secretly in love with his boss. I liked the most the portrayal of Dulcamara who in this production is not just a simple crook (like in most of the production I could see -- often caricaturally and/or naively acted). In this production instead he is an aged/retired depressed performer who sells his products not only because he needs to make his living, but also because the presentations are new opportunities to perform in front of the crowd. Presentations of his product "Dulca+" are carefully  staged (on the screens descending from above Brunel makes a nice mockery to the products/pills that miraculously lift your extra weight, erase your wrinkles, or transform your body into a muscular sculpture) and he seems trully happy performing. Confidence boosted by the fake elixir does not help Nemorino, as Belcore and Adina are to marry before the "magic" of elixir would work. That end of Act-1 looks very efficient on the stage: he feels dejected, stands on a pack of hay, rise hands and looks like a scarecrow - and then a huge crow comes and lands next to his feet. Nothing goes his way. Act-2 is cleverly staged and is set in front of (and inside) café "La Perdrix", which gives enough space to Brunel to make his vibrant theater to work wonderfully - a comedy that is actually funny for what's going on on the stage and not because the actors are making silly facial expressions.

In video attached below you will see Nemorino singing "Una furtiva lagrima" and Adina depressed. Prior to that Nemorino's head was shaved after he decided to join the army and make enough money to buy another bottle of "Dulca+".

A reason more for me to see this show live was a superb Olga Peretyatko whose 2 excellent performances I could see on TV in 2010 [Moscow Cheryomushki from Lyon - soon to appear on DVD, and in The Nightingale from Aix en Provence] but unfortunately none in an opera house. She sings high -- clearly more at ease in the upper register of her voice, projects her voice wonderfully, and her good looks extra-help the credibility of her Adina. Her voice would equally fit your Blondchen and your preferred Countess Almaviva. She's today known to excels in belcanto and Mozartian repertoire, but is rocking in the Russian roles too. She is definitely not "up and coming" young singer anymore -- she's up there among the very best today. Naturally her Adina was irresistible.

Bülent Bezdüz was a new name for me. I like the fact that he's from Turkey, as that brings his sensibilities into the spectrum of lyric tenors today. His Nemorino sounded wonderful, but I  am not sure if his voice would be big enough for larger venues. For the auditorium of Opéra de Lille his performance was  definitely excellent. Renato Girolami was very convincing as Dulcamara, both vocally and scenically. A part of that must be due to Richard Brunel who gave him opportunity to portray a humanly more interesting character, instead of routinely caricature-crook Dulcamara's we see in most (all?) productions of this opera today. Fairly good performance from Guido Loconsolo too.

Antonello Allemandi reads the score elegantly, respects the timings of the stage action nicely,  and is attentive to singers (timings-wise). If only someone told him to lower the volume to better optimize the volume of the orchestra, things would have been even better: singers were often unnecessarily in danger of being covered by the orchestra.

Belcanto is not my favorite repertoire, and --to be totally honest-- this opera is not really dear to my heart, but when it's so well produced and wonderfully sung, it is a treat!

I hope this production travels to bigger theaters. To me it is as good if not even better than the celebrated Laurent Pelly's production.

Below are several production photos...

... followed by my curtain call pics...

Renato Girolami, Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, Bülent Bezdüz, Olga Peretyatho, and Guido Loconsolo

Crow with his trainer

Gianetta and Dulcamara


Nemorino with Adina and Belcore applauding

Blurry pic with Richard Brunel (guy with a scarf)

One pic with Maestro Allemandi
... and finally 3 videos: 2 are short clips announcing the show on the public French TV - France3, and the 3rd is with Nemorino singing Una furtiva lagrima.


  1. I can see that Bulent Bezduz cut his long hair.

  2. Not really....He has long hair for the first part and then there is a "hair make-up" (well made by the way) to make him look with short hair! christophe