L’Elisir d’Amore, OperaUpClose, Kings Head. Review by Julia Pascal.

Gaetano Donizetti’s 1832 comic opera is compressed into an exquisite pocket version in a new adaptation by Valentina Ceschi with a witty set by Kate Lane.

The story unfolds in Hollywood circa 1950 and this update works.

Una Reynolds’ fickle Adina, Alex Vearey-Roberts’ vulnerable Nemorino, Marc Callahan’s macho Belcore, Caroline Kennedy’s sympathetic Gianetta and Matthew Stiff’s outlandish quack doctor, make a fabulously engaging team.

Ceschi’s loving production finds a hugely comic style which marries strong acting with high belt.

She  also has a gifted musical ensemble with David Gostick piano and direction, Duncan Anderson on viola and Ellie McMurray on sax.  At moments McMurray even jazzes up Donizetti and for a second, we are nearer to Gershwin than comic Italian opera.

My only quibble is the disconnect of  English accents  with an American English book.  Lines  such as, ‘you’ll be chewing a knuckle sandwich you bum’  in BBC English provoke the wrong kind of laughter.

But this is a mere detail in an evening that offers spectacular singing, musicianship and a wildly funny concept.

Julia Pascal © 2013,