A love potion that really works …

Göran Forsling / Seen and Heard International / May 2014 / A cock’s crowing and a dog’s barking off-stage while the villagers fill the stage before the overture, inform us that we are in a farming area – as we should be in this rural comedy. But things have changed since 1832. One hundred years later the setting is not Basque but Sicily, Adina is no longer a landowner, she runs a shop, Nemorino is no longer a poor farmer, he is a handy-man, and Belcore, when he eventually arrives, is no longer a sergeant, he is a mafia-leader and he arrives in a motor-bike side-car. Dulcamara is certainly the same old quack doctor, seemingly not well-off to judge from his very antique car, and he still sells his Bordeaux wine under the pretext of being a miracle potion. On the other hand the village seems to have remained untouched by the ravages of time. Does this concept work? It does, and miraculously well too. That Belcore can enlist Nemorino as soldier may jar a bit but from a Mafioso one can probably expect anything.

Georg Malvius, Romanian born but domiciled in Sweden, is probably best known as director of musicals and he has applied some freewheeling lightness to this delightful score that brings L’elisir d’amore closer to Broadway than La Scala. Melodramma giacoso Donizetti called this masterpiece, while Don Pasquale is described as drama buffo. This difference is significant: In Don Pasquale the characters are more burlesque, more caricatures while in L’elisir d’amore they are gentler, more human and Malvius’s lighter touch empathises this. Of course Belcore is a boor but somewhere behind this façade there beats a human heart – even Mafiosos have hearts.

There is a compelling liveliness about this production with a lot of charming details in the direction, not least in the action of the chorus, which works not as an anonymous crowd but well chiselled out individuals. So much happens in this performance, it oozes with life and the action rolls on in high-spirited tempo – but still relaxed. Giannetta, who has fairly little to sing and in most productions is marginalized, here becomes an equal to the other soloists and more or less steals the show several times. Olga Zaitseva’s expressivity is quite enchanting. A true comedienne – and she sings charmingly too.

The rest of the cast is superb in acting as well as singing. Oliver Kuusik, whose beautiful lyric tenor has graced a couple of earlier performances I have seen at the Estonian National Opera, is ideally cast as the simpleton Nemorino, making him a very moving character that everyone should pity. His nuanced singing is a joy to listen to and Una furtiva lagrima, restrained and inward, called forth memories of singers like Leopold Simoneau or Cesare Valletti from a nowadays distant past. René Soom’s foppish Belcore is vocally another representative for bel canto: beauty of tone, perfect legato, elegant phrasing. That Rauno Elp has an extraordinary talent for comedy he has proven several times before. A memorable Don Magnifico in La cenerentola, a hilarious Cook I The Love of Three Oranges, an over-the-top neurotic Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus immediately comes to mind and to those portraits he now adds an uncommonly subtle and sensitive Dulcamara – but he never misses an opportunity to show off in big gestures and his timing is exceptional. A new and utterly agreeable acquaintance is Kristel Pärtna, whose Adina goes well with the three veterans. A brilliant, agile lyric soprano and charming appearance pared with excellent stage presence makes her an ideal opposite party to the awkward Nemorino and their duets are vocal highspots. The fresh conducting of Vello Pähn and the inspired singing and playing of the chorus and orchestra further enhance the positive picture of this L’elisir d’amore. A wholly delightful production and a love potion that really works!!!

Donizetti L’Elisir d’amore. Soloists, Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Vello Pähn (conductor). Estonian National Opera, Tallinn 15.5.2014. (Premiere) (GF)

Nemorino – Oliver Kuusik
Adina – Kristel Pärtna
Belcore – René Soom
Dulcamara – Rauno Elp
Giannetta – Olga Zaitseva

Stage Director: Georg Malvius
Designer: Ellen Cairns
Lighting Designer: Palle Palmé
Choreographer: Adrienne Åbjörn

Georg Malvius brings to stage “L’elisir d’amore” by Gaetano Donizetti

On 15th of May will be the premiere of opera “L’elisir d’amore” at the Estonian National Opera, staged by Georg Malvius from Sweden. The designer is Ellen Cairns, lighting designer Palle Palmé and choreographer Adrienne Abjörn. Premiere will be conducted by Vello Pähn, in the main roles perform Oliver Kuusik, Kristel Pärtna, René Soom, Rauno Elp and Olga Zaitseva.

Written in a few weeks’ time, “L’elisir d’amore” has become one of the most frequently performed of all Gaetano Donizetti’s operas together with “Lucia di Lammermoor” (1835) and “Don Pasquale” (1843). It combines a touching love story and hilarious comedy with lightness, sparkling wit and beautiful music, including the well-loved tenor aria “Una furtiva lagrima”. Its premiere in Milan in 1832 was a triumph and secured Donizetti’s place as one of the leading Italian opera composers of his day. “L’elisir d’amore” relies on the traditions of the 18th century opera buffa and offers an ear-tickling delight for all lovers of 19th century Italian bel canto.

Georg Malvius has directed more that 60 plays, 70 musicals and 20 operas in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, England, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg Austria, Monaco, Hungary and elsewhere. In Estonia, Malvius has staged 14 musical and drama productions.

Photo: Harri Rospu. Adina – Kristel Pärtna, Nemorino – Oliver Kuusik.

ERGO dance awards were given to Abigail Sheppard and Vitali Nikolajev

On May 3, the ERGO Dance Awards 2014 were handed over to Abigail Sheppard and Vitali Nikolajev – dancers of the Estonian National Ballet. Yearly awards of the main sponsor of the national ballet – ERGO – have been given since 2010 already. The awards were given to the dancers by Maarika Liivamägi, Member of the Board of ERGO.

Abigail Sheppard began her professional ballet training in 2002 at Canada’s National Ballet School. While studying, she had numerous performance opportunities with the school, as well as with The National Ballet of Canada. In 2011, she moved to Amsterdam to study with the Dutch National Ballet Academy. During this time she performed in Dutch National Ballet’s productions of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” (chor. Rudi van Danzig) and “The Nutcracker & The Mouse King” (chor. Wayne Eagling). Since August 2012, Abigail is the member of the Estonian National Ballet. Her most significant role is Glauce in Schiavoni’s “Medea” to the music of Stravinsky, Schnittke and Dead Can Dance.

Vitaly Nikolayev graduated from the Tallinn Choreography School in 1986. Since 1986 he dances at the Estonian National Ballet troupe. Repertoire: Soloist (Fredmann’s “Last Songs”), Oscar (“The Fairytale” in Pictures by Bournonville), Alexis (Paull’s “Conservatoire”), Fool (Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”), Adam (Penderecki’s “Paradise Lost”), Wooer and Prince Fortuné (“The Sleeping Beauty” by Tchaikovsky), Devil (Tubin’s “Goblin”), Station guard (Shchedrin’s “Anna Karenina”), Mercutio (Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”), Forester (Adam’s “Giselle”), Camacho (Minkus’s “Don Quixote”), Madge (“La Sylphide” by Bournonville), Coppelius (Delibes’s “Coppélia”), Monsieur G. M. and Gaoler (MacMillan’s “Manon”), Alfredo (Hynd’s “Rosalinde”), Petrushka (Stravinsky’s “Petrushka”) etc.

Photos: Rünno Lahesoo

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