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By Phil Hall | July 4, 2010

This Glyndebourne production of Donizetti’s rueful comic opera can easily be summarized in one word: “Wow!”  As presented here, “L’Elisir d’Amore” is a fast-moving, wisely staged endeavor fueled with strong performances and an uncommonly intelligent use of space.

The visual emphasis is away from operatic spectacle, with a tight view on the overplayed human emotions that turn a rustic village love triangle into an amusing yet touching commentary on the human experience.  Director Annabel Arden utilizes a single set, but she masterfully allows the large cast to subtly flow in and out amidst a delightful tumult of chicanery, unrequited love, and astonishing changes of heart and mind; Robin Lough, who directed this video record of the production, skillfully knows how to frame and cut scenes without disrupting the opera’s edgy flow.

Peter Auty, as the lovesick but penniless farmhand, invests an astonishing depth of emotion into his work, creating an extraordinary character of indefatigable spirit laced with light angst. Ekaterina Siurina, as the fickle object of his affection, deftly adds a wider scope to her character that enables her late-act turnaround to be thoroughly believable.  In lesser hands, the characters could be one-dimensional. But Auty and Siurina create award-worthy performances that can create genuine laughs and heartbreak.

There is also Luciano Di Pasquale and Alfredo Daza, who keep their comedy supporting roles as the medicine show peddler and overbearing army sergeant at the right level – they lace the production with enough humor without veering into overt scene stealing.

The crisp quality of the HD videography and the high-quality soundtrack (recorded in LPCM Stereo and DTS Digital Surround) more complements the bravura staging. There is one slight catch on this DVD: a bare bones special features section with only a cast gallery and an illustrated synopsis. But beyond that easily forgivable flaw, this offering is very highly recommended for both opera lovers and those who are coming to the operatic experience for the first time.

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