This past Saturday, Vancouver Opera succeeded in making Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore a delight, both vocally and visually, from beginning to end, a delicious dessert of a production.
Updated to Anytown, Canada – the production has been done in the United States, in which case it would have been Anytown, U.S.A. – at a time shortly before World War I, it makes the part about soldiers being drafted fit in with the plot. The set is simple but beautiful, and the entire performance was magically lit by lighting designer Harry Frehner.
Canadian tenor Andrew Haji has a light but very musical voice, and his portrayal of Nemorino as the guileless simpleton certainly endeared him to the audience. He very generously passed up the opportunity to make Una furtive lagrima, the tenor aria from the opera, a showpiece for himself, but sang it as a part of the musical and dramatic whole.
Soprano Ying Fang, who has been scoring successes at opera houses around the world, possesses a truly beautiful voice and an effortless delivery. She really plunged into the role of the coquettish Adina with relish. It is obvious that we have a star in the making here.
Brett Polegato as Sergeant Belcore and Stephen Hegedus as “Doctor” Dulcamara complete the well-balanced cast with their musical as well as dramatic contributions.
I sometimes feel that Jonathan Darlington is too laid back in his conducting, and doesn’t push the singers enough. Nevertheless, he led a beautiful and sensitive reading of Donizetti’s score, and was entirely supportive of every aspect of the singing. What I missed was more of a tension in the musical fabric.
In my mind, I try to “hear” what the voices and instruments would sound like in an acoustically ideal opera house. In the dull - dead would be a better word - acoustics of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, no amount of efforts by the singers or instrumentalist can be fully appreciated by the audience. This theatre should really be relegated to musicals, popular concerts, or other non-musical events.
Politicians and the moneyed people in Vancouver should remember that any society or city, past or present, is remembered by its artistic achievements. I pray that Vancouver will one day have an opera house and a concert hall (to replace the beautiful but acoustically less-than-ideal Orpheum Theatre) that would allow us to fully enjoy the music making of the many talented musicians in our midst.
January 29, 2018