Astana Opera to premiere Elixir of Love this week
NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - A fascinating story about an ardent young man and a rich girl fell into the hands of Astana Opera’s talented artists, conductor and also the stage director, what came of it, we will find out right now, going backstage, Kazinform has learnt from the press service of Astana Opera.
The premiere of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) will take place on December 26 and 27. Meanwhile, the preparations are in full swing in the opera house’s workshops. Bright costumes and large-scale sets, among which you can even find a hot air balloon, are pleasing to the eye. The great composer’s wonderful music and an intricate story about the almighty elixir wafts from the rehearsal studios.
Librettist Felice Romani took advantage of a win-win scenario: his work was based on Eugène Scribe’s French libretto for Daniel Auber’s Le Philtre (1831). This is a funny Italian story about a wealthy landowner, Adina, who turns the head of an innocent admirer Nemorino. To do this, she uses a visiting sergeant. Dr Dulcamara, an itinerant medicine man, sells a ‘love elixir’ to the young man, which nevertheless solves all his problems. Despite the composer’s haste, the opera turned out to be great: an entertaining plot and light melody ensured the audience’s long-term love for the work. The gracefulness, lightness, seeming simplicity of this opera attracted the attention of the production team to it.
It includes music director and conductor Alan Buribayev, stage director Arnaud Bernard, set designer Ezio Frigerio and costume designer Franca Squarciapino.
«This opera was born in 1832. Great masters worked on it, which is probably why at that time millions of opera enthusiasts around the world reacted to this performance with delight. Outstanding professionals are working on our production – the best set designer of our time, Ezio Frigerio, his assistant Riccardo Massironi, Academy Award winner Franca Squarciapino, her assistant Anna Verdi. They make great efforts to ensure that this masterpiece ‘fits’ on our stage organically, taking into account all the technical and technological requirements of the opera house. In this production, the audience will see the impressive size of the sets. We will use the lower and upper stage machinery. Pleasant surprises await the audience. A lot of work in this large-scale opera fell on the shoulders of the designer Franca Squarciapino. She has to create about 250 costumes. The projections in this production are made by the opera house’s specialists together with the set designer and his assistant. The director has to work with a huge space of our stage, making sure that every corner of it has its own life. Therefore, he carefully thinks out all the mise-en-scenes. He has absolutely original ideas that make his project unique and inimitable. There is no doubt that we will see the classic the way we can relate to it in the light of today,» Victor Carare, Deputy Director for Design, Production and Building Maintenance, said.
The performance will be taking place on a wealthy Italian farm, so the props match the theme: sacks, crates of potatoes, haystacks – and all this was made by hand. Craftsmen work with different materials: Worbla, plastic, papier-mâché. Mugs, barrels, pots, shovels and other village paraphernalia appear in their hands. Among other things, in this workshop you can see ammunition, various weapons, including a cannon, made in realistic dimensions.
Effervescent Artistry, or a Masterpiece Created in 2 Weeks
The renowned opera L’Elisir d’Amore is performed many times around the world every year. However, stage director Arnaud Bernard will manage not to replicate his predecessors. His secret is simple: he never watches what has been done before.
«Directing is the way of telling a story, an energy, the way of working with the crowd: the supernumeraries and the choir, so the result is always different. Incidentally, we will use the full choir onstage in this production. This opera was not written for such a big number of choir members, but it is always interesting to do things differently. Since we story is set on a large farm, we can certainly have a lot of choir members.»
The director emphasized that the opera L’Elisir d’Amore has amazing music, a wonderful libretto and the production team makes this opera relevant by interpreting it in their own way, with the eye of our time period. The evolution of the genre also lies in interpreting the opera using new technologies and new ways of acting.
«For example, when you see an opera with all the choir members in line facing the audience without any direction or energy, this makes it old-fashioned. Today we cannot present an opera like we we were working 20, 40, 50 or 60 years ago, because the audience now is more demanding in terms of the quality of acting. The same applies to singers, in my opinion, they have to act, which has its own difficulties, because they also have to sing as well, but the same demand will apply to them as to the movie actors.»
«This is my first time staging L’Elisir d’Amore in Kazakhstan, at Astana Opera. I think that when a new piece is being presented in an opera house, it is important to be very close to the original plot. We decided to make a classical version of this opera in our own interpretation. The idea is to be Italian in style and to have a taste of Italian theatre, Italian comedy, inside a farmhouse. I will introduce an Italian actor who, according to the plot, will be an assistant to the most comic character – Dr Dulcamara. He will be representing the famous Italian Commedia dell’Arte,» the director Arnaud Bernard said.
The performer of the role of Dr Dulcamara’s assistant Donato Demita will have to portray his hero without words, only with the aid of movements. Donato Demita is a professional theatre actor who specializes in pantomime. He has extensive experience performing in drama theatres and opera houses of Europe and is widely known abroad. The actor’s unsurpassed skill will enrich the performance.
«Sometimes silence says things your heart would never have the courage to say. It has everything. It contains your truth, thoughts, wounds, successes and talent. My character is Dulcamara’s assistant. He is a quiet, carefree, funny and poetic lad. I am happy to play this role as it gives me the opportunity to get closer to one of my first and most important teachers – Buster Keaton.»
The artist noticed that during the rehearsals the company lives out the opera and adds various colours to it. «I like working with Astana Opera’s vocalists. Our differences are the fuel for moving the complex, beautiful and unique theatrical machine forward,» Demita concluded.
Saltanat Akhmetova and Alfiya Karimova are preparing to perform the part of Adina. On different days, Zhan Tapin and Abai Opera House soloist Damir Saduakhassov will present the role of Nemorino. Nazym Sagintai and Madina Islamova will take the stage as Giannetta. Talgat Mussabayev and Talgat Galeyev will portray Belcore. Dr Dulcamara is Yevgeniy Chainikov and Baurzhan Anderzhanov.
«I had the opportunity to perform one of the most beautiful parts – Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore. Many thanks to the opera house’s management for this. I am also grateful to fate that I take part in the production with such a famous director as Arnaud Bernard. I think it will be one of the masterpieces in Astana Opera’s repertoire. The part of Nemorino is lyrical. My hero is a poet, a very sensitive person. To some extent, I sympathize with him, because he loses his head, falling in love with Adina. Thanks to the director’s explanations, my attitude towards Nemorino is changing, and now I understand his character deeper. I have been performing the famous romanza Una Furtiva Lagrima from this opera for 20 years already. It is widely known not only to professionals, but also to everyday listeners, as it is often used in cinema,» Zhan Tapin noted.
It is known that Donizetti already composed Nemorino’s legendary romanza Una Furtiva Lagrima and was just waiting for a suitable opera. The composer had to persuade the librettist to write the necessary lyrics for a long time in order to add it to the score. However, the latter at first assured him that such a sublime work does not suit the simple village guy Nemorino.
The main character, headstrong, rich estate owner Adina, dreams of sublime love, inspired by the novel Tristan and Iseult. Astana Opera’s Principal Soloist Saltanat Akhmetova has performed this part twice already – in Italy and in Kazakhstan, in Almaty.
«As in our case, the previous productions were staged in a classical manner. There is a lot of action in this production. I will have to ride a bicycle around the stage, which is a little difficult for me, because as a child I did not learn to ride this ‘conveyance’ (laughs). Although now I have more time to practice. In any case, it is great, because the opportunity presented itself to try something new. There are a lot of movements that will need to be combined with singing in this production, so I calculate everything exactly so as not to get out of breath. During the rehearsals, the director guides us, tells us what our state of mind should be, what kind of reaction he would like to see on the artists’ faces. In general, the work is intense. Speaking of my heroine, in my opinion, she was in love with Nemorino from the very beginning, though she does not show it. She is in a higher social position than Nemorino, nevertheless, at the end of the performance, love makes her forget about this difference and fully surrender to her feelings,» Saltanat Akhmetova shared.
Village life is really in a full swing when the itinerant medicine man Dr Dulcamara, a charlatan and a rogue, appears here. The sale of ‘miraculous elixirs’ is in full swing.
«Dr Dulcamara is a key figure in the production, because he is the one who brings the ‘elixir of love’ to farmers. In fact, we know that there is no elixir, and this is a common farce. However, the ‘healer’ travels to small villages, sells his miracle potions, which these days resembles network marketing. My hero advertises a ‘balm’ and assures the assembled people that it helps with everything: wrinkles, diseases, getting rid of insects and mice. And then he ‘plays’ with the price, starting with a large amount, and then reducing it to 3 liras, convincing the residents that this is a special price only for them, since he himself comes from here. People begin to buy up the magic drink with great excitement. Finally, Nemorino started to believe, placing his hopes on the elixir, as he wants Adina to love him. However, instead of the promised love elixir, Dr Dulcamara sells him regular wine.»
«At the end of the opera, everyone finds love and happiness, establishing their trust in the elixir. Dulcamara himself is surprised, because there is no love elixir. Nevertheless, the goal is achieved – people are healed. Everyone sees him off as a person who has brought happiness. I will be paired with the Italian actor Donato Demita, who will play an Dr. Dulcamara’s assistant. There are different options in different productions: in some, a lot of people come with the doctor, in ours – only an assistant. Vocally, this part is not easy, it has a lot of text, tempo tongue twisters. Tessituras are also quite difficult, but all this is very useful for the vocal development,» Yevgeniy Chainikov said.
Another striking character in this opera is Sergeant Belcore. His life is developing rapidly, after having barely decided to marry, he is left with nothing...
«In the new production I will perform the part of the dashing Sergeant Belcore. This is a self-confident and narcissistic character who considers himself the most handsome, courageous and happy. There are no barriers for him. He is sure that no beauty can resist him. Having noticed charming, but lively Adina, he asks for her hand without delay, at the same hour: «In love, like in war, delay leads to mistakes.» This is a buffoon character. This is the first time I will perform this role, and I think it will be interesting for me to goof around and have fun with this interpretation. L’Elisir d’Amore is one of Donizetti’s brilliant comic operas. We are happy that such an exciting and cheerful production, which will appeal to our dear viewers, will be added to our opera house’s repertoire,» Talgat Mussabayev said.
L’Elisir d’Amore is a masterpiece in which everything is in its place and there is nothing superfluous. Although there are only five main characters, the choir will make the production spectacular and large-scale.
«Our choir will be performing L’Elisir d’Amore for the first time. Fortunately, here we go onstage with our full cast. Donizetti’s music is as special as Verdi’s and Puccini’s for any opera performer. In this opera it is cloudless, sunny and bright. It is so brilliantly written, as if the Almighty Himself wrote it through the composer.»
«As a rule, the choir singers portray peasants, bourgeoisie onstage, but one way or another their task is to convey the mood. They will depict different emotions, including reflecting the main characters’ personality traits: Adina’s pride, Belcore’s boasting, Dulcamara’s deceit. The characters are all different, but they are all joined in one interesting story. I hope that the collective will master being very active onstage. At the moment the rehearsal process is underway and the choir singers really like the director’s ideas. With regard to vocals, we have our own difficulties, because this is the first time we come across this score. We have to work a lot on the style and rhythm.»
The moral of this opera is that no elixirs will help when it comes to love, only an open heart and sincere feelings make it possible for love to arise. Someone says that love is an impulse, someone that it is passion, but love is a sacrament and no one knows what makes two people fall in love with each other,» Yerzhan Dautov concluded.
This opera is a veritable hymn to ardent love that started on a warm summer evening amid the pastoral setting of a small 19th century Italian village. It will definitely find its fans at Astana Opera, and will delight the audience’s hearts for many years to come.
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