Opera House, Wellington

23/06/2018 - 30/06/2018

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

31/05/2018 - 07/06/2018

Production Details

Love and laughter in The Elixir of Love  

An exciting cast flies in from around the globe this week to begin rehearsals for Donizetti’s comic masterpiece The Elixir of Love, an opera chosen especially to showcase the talents of San Francisco-based Kiwis Pene Pati (Sol3 Mio)and Amina Edris as the hapless Nemorino and his lady love Adina.

New Zealand Opera General Director Stuart Maunder says the company is delighted to bring Pene and Amina home at this stage in their careers following their participation in the prestigious Merola programme and time as Adler Fellows in San Francisco.

“Pene and Amina are starting to be booked by some of the biggest opera companies in the world and we’re very excited to have secured them for their New Zealand Opera debuts together as our romantic leads in Simon Phillip’s wacky, irreverent and totally joyful production.

“Elixir is the ideal vehicle for this talented couple and I know audiences will be delighted by their extraordinary voices and trademark charm as they share the stage with a small but perfectly formed principal cast and the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus.”

Pati and Edris will be joined by London-based Australian/New Zealand baritone Morgan Pearse as Belcore, Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Natasha Wilson as Giannetta and Conal Coad returns to his New Zealand roots from his home on the Gold Coast to reprise his role as the quack doctor Dulcamara, a role he originated in this production.

“In this production we have four extremely talented young singers who make their role debuts alongside the wonderful veteran bass Conal Coad, who has made the role his own in this production and in many other productions around the globe,” Maunder says.

Set in an antipodean country town during World War One, this production was created for Opera Australia by another New Zealand export, Director Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical, Muriel’s Wedding, La bohème).

The Elixir of Love features the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus and orchestra partners Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington under the baton of New Zealand Opera’s Director of Music Wyn Davies, returning to the first opera of his conducting career and a firm favourite.

The Elixir of Love opens in Auckland at ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre on Thursday 31 May before travelling to Wellington for a season beginning on 23 June. Tickets begin at $50 + booking fees and are available now at Ticketmaster.

Note: Natasha Wilson is currently appearing as Adina in the 2018 Opera in Schools programme in a 45-minute English language version of The Elixir of Love alongside the other 2018 Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists Manase Latu and Samson Setu and Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus member Angus Simmons. The tour begins today in Rotorua.

The Elixir of Love
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
May 31, June 2 & 7 at 7.30pm
June 9 at 5pm

Opera House
June 23, 28 & 30 at 7.30pm
26 at 6.30pm

Adina Amina Edris
Nemorino Pene Pati
Belcore Morgan Pearse
Dr Dulcamara Conal Coad
Giannetta Natasha Wilson

Creative Team
Conductor Wyn Davies
Director Simon Phillips
Restage Director Matthew Barclay
Assistant Director Jacqueline Coats
Designer Michael Scott-Mitchell
Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper
Costume Designer Gabriela Tylesova

Theatre , Opera ,

Elixir works its magic

Review by William Dart 03rd Jun 2018

World War I rages in Europe while one of the most tune-filled of all love stories takes place in the fields, barns and hen-houses of a small Australian outback town. This is the premise for Simon Phillips’ stylish take on Italian composer Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, wittily re-staged for Opera New Zealand by Matthew Barclay.

The pathway to love isn’t so smooth for Adina and Nemorino, played by our own Amina Edris and Pene Pati. They duet while he shears his corrugated iron sheep and she grooms her metallic steed; we smile at the couple’s deft carry-on, all the time transported by their glorious singing. [More


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A most enjoyable, easily assimilated entertainment for a modern audience

Review by Michael Hooper 01st Jun 2018

There is much to like about this revived 2001 Simon Phillips-directed Opera Australia production, with its bright outback colours, agrarian humour and jaunty melodies. NZ Opera Director of Music Wyn Davies brings the same alacrity and airiness to the score as he did with the 2015 production of Rossini’s la Cenerentola (Cinderella). The vigorous chorus, sparkling Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) and vivacious cast fizz like that famous elixir through this luminous, lyrical comedy. 

Rossini wrote his last opera in 1829, Bellini his in 1835 and it is Donizetti who continued and developed the story-driven opera that was next to infect Verdi, and surely there is no simpler story than that of The Elixir of Love. Boy loves girl who disdains him, something magical, some Deus ex Machina, happens that opens her eyes or transforms him, then boy gets girl.  There are not even devious tangential sub-plots to water the eyes with mistaken identities or deceptions. The Elixir that makes possible the resolution of Nemorino’s desire for Adina is the only real conceit, and Adina is the only character who understands that the true elixir is not OF love, but IS love. This opera is therefore uniquely uncomplicated. 

Matthew Barclay, the restage director, points out that the 1914-15 setting is a time when Australia was being “colonised by the forces of commercialism and the empire” and these are represented by Coca-Cola and army recruitment for the European war. They neither darken the show nor derail its express train of pacey passages which slow down only for the points of love.

The awarded and internationally applauded designer Michael Scott-Mitchell’s set burns brightly with the burnished colours of sand yellow, azure sky blue and sunset orange. The canvas from which they glow is corrugated iron, two-dimensional ripple-cut crisps of scenery, to which a third dimension is added by a progression of receding, tall, corrugated frames that also act as a sound shell – a useful ally in the acoustically unpredictable Aotea Centre ASB Theatre.

Taking the same colourful cue is costume designer Gabriela Tylesova, also internationally active and acclaimed. Her mimosa of millinery tops off sun-driven colours and muted pastels of the era, running to an ochre/yellow clay splash across the bottom of Adina’s watery blue long skirt that draws the very desert up into her costume. Elixir quack, Dr Dulcamara, gets a Gala-pink shirt, a lemon waistcoat and a scarlet suit, and all this cheer is painted in the warm colour spectrum by lighting designer Nick Schlieper.

We open with an Uluru-esque bald mountain over which various clever cut-outs will be animated as themes and fanfares announce the imminent arrival of various protagonists, most notably the smugly pompous, mounted Sergeant Belcore and the cleverly constructed Rawleighs’ truck of the encyclopaedic Dr Dulcamara in the ‘sunburnt country’.  

As with all transpositions of time and place, the over-riding question of suitability and ‘fit’ arises.  Original director Simon Phillips writes of his instinct to set productions ‘as close to home in time and place as the scenario will allow’ and he presents a cogent argument for this setting. We learn to shear tin sheep, we laugh at the animal noises, and marvel at the constructions that recall some of the earliest stage scenery flats. There is no doubt that the cohesively themed set, props, lighting and costumes lift this show into a most enjoyable, easily assimilated entertainment for a modern audience. 

The same question is answered more awkwardly when applied to the ‘Ockabulary’ used for the surtitles. The first few vernacular verses are funny – “a smoko in the shade”, a “bobby-dazzler” of a girl who’s “an absolute corker”, and love that will “stick like a dag to a sheep”. Dr Dulcamara’s amusingly addressing the “rustici” as “friends, ploughmen and countrymen” suits his verbosity. However, even for a Footrot Flats fan like me, the distressed dialectic of the surtitles eventually palls. The beauty of the Italian lyrics, even translated into standard English, is tarnished by the overly-extruded long joke. Nice idea though – back in 2001.

It is a pleasure to experience Amina Adris and her husband Pene Pati in the lead roles of Adina and Nemorino.  She is flowing and silky in effortless delivery of the runs, notes and lyrics, and, like Natasha Wilson as Giannetta, the townswomen’s leader, she is also light on her feet; a delight to see and hear. Her aria in the final stages of Act II, ‘Prendi’ (“Take it – through me you’re free again”) is sheer beauty. Her various duets are beautifully balanced and generously shared – indeed, it is a hallmark of Wyn Davies’ conducting that all the musical forces are balanced. Her chemistry with Pene Pati is tangible, his open and clear voice wonderfully warm and his facial expressiveness humourful and endearing. His sense of comedy plays to the audience as he leans over the stage to read the surtitles when Dr Dulcamara is trying to sing through his supper.  

On opening night Pati was suffering mobility problems with a pronounced limp; perhaps discomfort was responsible for a couple of less convincing passages in the opera’s most famous aria, ‘Una furtiva lagrima (‘A furtive tear’) in Act II. If he was in pain, he did not otherwise show it, slipping from the B flat minor into the aria’s happier major key as he realises, “She loves me, I can see”. Comparisons with opera greats are not surprising, underscored by his support from star tenor Simon O’Neill and his wife Carmel. 

Premiering in Milan in 1832, Elixir is written in the so-called bel canto style (beautiful song), and is set to show the beauty of the voice. That is certainly the case for all the principals, including Morgan Pearse as the cartoon sergeant with a disciplined, ringing voice that has the warmly welcoming, oaty texture of an Anzac biscuit, complete with Golden Syrup. Conal Coad deals nimbly with the patter of Dr Dulcamara and is no slouch on his feet atop the Rawleigh’s van either!

Whatever the discounted price of the elixir, there is no short-changing lovers of chorus numbers in this show; the Freemasons NZ Opera Chorus is almost omnipresent, adding colour physically and vocally, in fine form. The APO leaps around some athletic key changes, a languorous violin underscores the wonder of the amazing elixir of love, there’s some magical flute playing, with Andrew Uren’s clarinet and Amber Rainey’s harpsichord among the delights of the evening. In the words of Dulcamara, “a most seductive effect”.

I also like the words of soprano Ekaterina Siurina, summing up her role and the opera after this year’s Pittsburgh Opera production: “It’s a joy to play two people who fall in love without admitting to each other that they’re in love.  Everyone is young, beautiful and full of energy … and then, at the end, nobody dies.”  


Editor June 7th, 2018

Here is the link to Michael Hooper’s chat about The Elixir of Love with Jesse Mulligan on RNZ National. 

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