Moving from the cloister of an 18th-century manor to a geodesic dome in the 18th-century gardens of Belcombe Court seems to have injected new life into Iford Arts in its 23rd year of summer opera.
Donizetti’s fizzing romance, L’Elisir d’Amore, the second production in Iford’s season, is given a performance of sunny good humour by a talented cast of young singers. They bring to it a joie de vivre that singers sometimes lose with age and experience.
James Hurley has set the story in 1920s California, where Adina grows oranges and sells juice to passing motorists. His direction is fast and funny and the designs by Holly Pigott – especially the big orange umbrella over Adina’s roadside orange stall – are simple but effective. The acoustic in the dome is excellent, with wooden backboards boosting the sound of the Chroma ensemble under conductor Oliver Gooch.
As Nemorino the humble farmhand, Robert Lewis produces a boyish tenor to convey his naive passion for Adina (Claire Lees). In dungarees and a silk bandana, she makes light work of Donizetti’s rapid passages and top notes, while Matthew Durkan, as the preening Sergeant Belcore, proves baritones can do coloratura too. Andrew Shore wraps his fruity baritone round Dr Dulcamara’s cheeky patter songs, a highlight of Amanda Holden’s English translation.
The energetic company of six create the sound and drama of a full chorus, Iúnó Connolly makes a sparkling Giannetta, and the enchanting gardens of Belcombe Court make for a promising new venue for Iford Arts.