The Perils of Trying to Please
A new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera “L’Elisir d’Amore” tries a little too hard to impress and falls flat. Director Alexander Petrov’s take on Donizetti’s most famous opera was well received by audiences.
Published: April 10, 2013 (Issue # 1754)
With the official opening of the Mariinsky Theater’s stage due to take place in a few weeks’ time, the theater’s artistic director, Valery Gergiev, has been determined to create easily-digestible, lively productions for the company that are free of ponderous contemporary allusions, and are as easily appreciated by children as by their parents.
It was with this task in mind that the artistic duo of director Alexander Petrov and conductor Pavel Bubelnikov conceived the theater’s new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s ever-popular opera “L’Elisir d’Amore,” which was unveiled at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on March 28.
Trying to find a balance between the accessible and the rigorous in the hope of pleasing opera mavens and casual spectators alike is no easy feat.
It is difficult enough to simply create an operatic production that offers food for thought for connoisseurs, but the added burden of trying to make it accessible as well has seen the company struggling with the consequences of its artistic experiments, which regularly divide opinion.
While some spectators have enjoyed considering new conceptual conceits, the pointed social critique or the unorthodox treatment of a classical work, others have complained about what they see as the unnecessary gilding of the lily. Conversely, when the crowds have given new productions a rousing reception for “truly following the composer’s intentions,” the performers have been greeted with acerbic reviews that accuse the directors of being lazy and boring.
Alexander Petrov’s take on Donizetti looks set to continue the trend. His production, which was relatively warmly received by the audience, failed to break any new ground. As a result, it will likely see the more discerning audiences pass it over for more challenging fare.
The opera, which is set in a Tuscan village, revolves around a love triangle between the sheepish peasant Nemorino, the flirtatious beauty Adina and the self-satisfied Sergeant Belcore.
At the start of the opera, the animated, light-hearted heroine appears to have chosen Belcore, which prompts Nemorino to seek out the services of Dulcamara, a charlatan who concocts a love potion for the forlorn suitor.
In the end, however, it is money — in the shape of a large inheritance from his uncle — that wins Nemorino popularity with the village girls, while his decision to join the army appeals to Adina. But despite the facts, everyone, Nemorino included, prefers to believe in the magical properties of Dulcamara’s dubious concoction.
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