The university opera company put on a little production of this Donizetti opera this past weekend. It was in one of our smaller performance spaces (aside from classrooms, we have one great big auditorium, one or two medium sized ones, and then this, which is attached to the arts department and probably sits about 60 people) which was suitable for what the students were performing and how they staged it.
The set-up was pretty simple. A few screens set into the back of the stage that showed pictures of Italian fields, or crying cherubs (when Nemorino is sadly leaving for the army and hoping that he saw a tear in Adina’s eye) or two roses when the hero and heroine fall into one another’s arms at the end, with era-appropriate costumes and a few benches, wine flasks, etc. The size of the hall was such that the ‘property of university library’ stamp on Adina’s book in Act I was visible.
The opera was performed in a mixture of Italian and English, with the big numbers in Italian. My running theory was that they were switching to English for expositional purposes, even though there were supertitles on one of the screens at the rear of the stage. My friend S who is here for the weekend and went with me thought that it might have been the challenge of learning an entire opera in Italian in one semester. Perhaps a combination of both.
But seeing the students throw themselves into this was really fun. The woman who performed Adina was probably chosen because she can get all the coloratura right, although it seemed to me that she was still learning how to control her voice – she hit all the top high notes, but at a much higher volume than everything else she and the others on stage were producing. Dulcamara was performed by a slightly rotund young man who between the dancing, comic timing and some quite nice singing has, I suspect, a bright future ahead of him in comic tenor roles (my sense is that some of the male roles were transposed or adjusted due to constraints of who was available to sing them). The Dulcamara/Nemorino duet was very well executed, and I would have liked to hear more of the baritone who sang Belcore.
Perhaps next they could try for a Mozart opera, or something baroque – just to see what would happen.