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The Perils of Trying to Please

A new production of Gaetano Donizettis opera LElisir dAmore tries a little too hard to impress and falls flat. Director Alexander Petrovs take on Donizettis most famous opera was well received by audiences.

Published: April 10, 2013 (Issue # 1754)



  • Despite coming off as a bit naive in its staging, the operas vocal performances were as outstanding as ever.
    Photo: Natasha Rezina

With the official opening of the Mariinsky Theaters stage due to take place in a few weeks time, the theaters 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 theaters new production of Gaetano Donizettis ever-popular opera LElisir dAmore, 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 composers intentions, the performers have been greeted with acerbic reviews that accuse the directors of being lazy and boring.

Alexander Petrovs 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 Dulcamaras dubious concoction.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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