Glyndebourne’s revival of this delightful work by Donizetti is simply delicious. Re-imagining the story in the mid twentieth century works flawlessly and emphasises the timeless nature of the tale. The innocent love of Nemorino for the beautiful but calculating Adina is wonderfully portrayed by the youthful Filipe Manu. Mariam Battistelli’s Adina is cruel and ultimately fickle and the flaw in the story is that not one characters points out to Nemorino that her sudden change of heart is driven by money and perhaps not love. Despite this fact that no one points out that she is probably not good enough for him, we go along with it.
But at the first night of the autumn tour fate played a second trick on Nemorino, or indeed on Manu as he became unwell and unable to continue to sing. Fate was kinder to his understudy Rhys Batt who was plucked from the audience in the interval and sang the role at the side of the stage whilst Manu continued to act the role. The initial disconnect was soon forgotten and Batt delivered a very fine rendering of the role. There was however a difference, Filipe Manu’s voice was light and youthful, maybe coloured on this occasion by the emerging vocal problem, but it worked. Rhys Batt’s voice was richer, fuller and made for a more mature Nemorino and his delivery of Una Furtiva Lagrima gained him a massive and well deserved ovation. Manu soldiered on, forgive the allusion to the story, and so did the rest of the company, dealing impressively and almost seamlessly with the disconnect.
Theodore Platt’s Sergeant Belcore was powerful in both voice and drama and Tiziano Bracci gave us a precise and comic Dr Dulcamara and special mention must go to Ffion Edwards as Gianetta who made much of the role. Maxime Nourissat brings comedy to the whole as the Doctors assistant in a performance that is clearly formed of classic commedia dell’arte technique.
In terms of theatre the production is well formed, the chorus, and in particular the women, are excellent, particularly when they return drunk to discover the change in Nemorino’s status. Lez Brotherston’s naturalistic set is perfect and has stood the test of time since the first production in 2007. Annabel Arden’s direction is clean and assured, there is no messing here, no silly tricks or misguided attempts to find new ways to look at what is a simple love story beautifully told.