The Elixir of Love sounds like a tale worthy of Tristan and Isolde but it was not the tragic tale I had expected. Instead, the curtain opened to reveal a farming town in the Australian outback visited by a travelling doctor. The show spotlighted on the tale of two hearts but was filled with humour. It connected with modern audiences easily while being set in a time long before I was born.
The set design looked like an idea out of a Colourbond add but it worked. There is just something about sheet metal that screams country Australia. It was clever. From the tiny figures on the hills growing bigger as they grew closer before rolling onstage, to the bobble head sheep that were sheared onstage, and the chook shed that hosted gossip sessions in the still of night. Each piece reflected the outback and instigated a feeling of familiarity without overcomplicating it. Kudos to Michael Scott-Mitchell for his work on the design.
In opera I’ve always felt humour is the hardest to translate through subtitles but the translations were cleverly aligned to the audience, reflecting country Australian slang. “She’s a corker!” Nemorino’s declaration of his interest in Adina sent chuckles through the crowd but my favourite parts were when someone insulted another by using words such as “galah” or “drongo”. Nothing is more Australian than “drongo”.
Rachelle Durkin stole the show with her beautiful vibrato as leading lady but Aldo di Toro was a wonderful leading man. He was the picture of an Australian shearer, with a warm demeanour and strong shoulders. Marco Nistico’s little dances as Dr Dulcamara were a cheeky addition to his character and he played the role well. It was clear from the start he was a likeable character popping up through the story but his business was dodgy. There is no doubt in my mind that Dr Dulcamara’s business was something that actually happened back in the day with peddlers making the most of ignorant country towns and popular new fizzy drinks. Oops spoilers!
Admittedly, what made the show was the humour. The “oh sorry” Belacore stuttered as he hurt himself trying to kneel at Adina’s feet to serenade her, the gaggle of women fighting over Nemorino when he suddenly and unknowingly becomes rich when he starts to take the elixir, and Adina’s obvious efforts to catch Nemorinos attention while he does the same to catch hers. This show would appeal to most audiences but I feel it would be better suited to those who know Australian slang or would find the humour in its use. I can’t think of anything to fault this show with. Each element worked in sync and allowed the characters to shine through. I recommend this show to anyone who loves theatre and is in need of a good laugh. Leaving the theatre I had a stitch from laughing and a smile plastered on my face.
For more information on The Elixir of Love or to book tickets visit the West Australian Opera website. Be quick, the show is only on until the 23rd of July!