Elixir of Love. Comic opera at the ANU Arts Theatre

johnboy 9 December 2011


The Canberra Opera Workshop is putting on a performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s Elixir of Love this weekend.

Gaetano Donizetti’s opera, L’Elisir D’Amore (The Elixir of Love), written in 1832, will be set in a mid C19th Italian village.

It is customary, even expected, that C21st productions of classics should relocate or update their settings. Our decision to transfer The Elixir of Love from an Italian village to a mid C19th Australian goldfields community was not, however, made for reasons of fashion, but simply to bring it closer to home. The time doesn’t change at all, but the location changes considerably.

Although the Australian goldfields were a lot rougher than one assumes a C19th Italian village was, there are surprising (or perhaps not surprising) connections.

In the Italian village of the original setting, people are identified by how much money they have, or by their social status or by how clever they are: Adina has money and is educated; Belcore has the status of his army rank; Dulcamara has the counterfeit status of a doctor. People spread rumours and are easily swayed by gossip. Con-men are everywhere, ready to separate the gullible from their money. The community consists of people of all ranks and walks of life. There are good people, rogues, self-important people, and foolish people – in fact, all types. Women and men play silly love games – they play hard to get and won’t admit how they really feel.

With just a little imagination, all these things can apply to the historical Australian setting where people struggled with the land to gain wealth or just to survive; where they worked and played together and were entertained by performers and out-smarted by snake-oil salesmen; where they fought with the authorities and each other; and where the everyday drama of human society was played out.

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