The annual Pafos Aphrodite Festival brings a stunning backdrop for a thrilling opera writes ALIX NORMAN
Picture the postcard you can send to friends and relatives who, while we’re enjoying the halcycon days of late summer are even now stocking the recalcitrant boiler, hunting out their thermals and wondering if the rain will let up long enough to get to Tesco. ‘Italian opera by the Med,’ you might write. ‘Sun sinks into sea behind medieval castle. Quanto è bella, quanto è cara. Wish you were here …at the Pafos Aphrodite Festival’.
Celebrating 15 years at the pinnacle of the cultural scene, the Pafos Aphrodite Festival this year presents the acclaimed Opera Futura Verona with L’Elisir D’Amore (The Elixir of Love) on September 6, 7 and 8. And such is the setting, cast and musical beauty of the festival, it’s an unmissable event. Whether you’re a long-time aficionado or merely an opera novice, you’re sure to find yourself transported for the evening.
Directed by Paolo Panizza, conducted by Matteo Salvemini and with the participation of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, L’Elisir D’Amore is one of the most-performed operas worldwide, appearing on the Opera base at number 12. Written by Gaetano Donizetti with the Italian libretto by Felice Romani based on Eugène Scribe’s Le Philtre, L’ElisirD’Amore premiered at Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan on May 12 1832. With its bright colours and purity of emotion, the opera established Donizetti as a composer who was able to mix both comic and emotional elements, and the plot comprises a delightful mix of unrequited love and playful misunderstandings.
Set in a small village in the Basque country at the end of the 18th century, the story narrates the love of a poor villager, Nemorino, for the beautiful, rich and coquettish Adina. But wait! Though you may have already guessed the ending, this is opera, in which the course of true love did never run smooth… Enter the self-important sergeant Belcore who immediately sets about courting our heroine and you’ve got a classic love triangle worthy of the best Hollywood blockbusters.
At this point poor Nemorino moved to desperation by the news that Adina is set to marry the sergeant in six days’ time, resorts to the titular elixir – a dodgy potion of love provided by the travelling doctor Dulcamara. In reality, the potion is merely a bottle of cheap Bordeaux and to ensure his timely escape Dulcamara counsels that the potion will not take effect for 24 hours – by which time he will be long gone. Gullible to the last, Nemorino downs a draught of the so-called elixir of love and emboldened by its effects feigns indifference to his flighty paramour. Meanwhile, Belcore learns that his regiment must leave the village the following morning and Adina – still smarting from Nemorino’s disinterest – agrees to move up the wedding date inviting all and sundry to attend the festivities.
The second act opens with the bacarolle for two voices: ‘Lo son ricco e tuseibella’ (I am rich and you are beautiful) sung by Dulcamara and Adina to entertain the wedding party while they wait for the notary to arrive. Eventually everyone except Dulcamara heads off to witness the signing of the marriage contract between Adina and Belcore. As the doctor gorges on free food and drink, he runs into Nemorino, who begs the quack for more of the love potion. But alas, our hero has run out of money, and in an effort to pay for the philtre, he recklessly agrees to join the army in return for immediate funds.
In the meantime, the plot has taken a further twist of fate: unaware that his rich uncle has just died and left him a wealthy young man, Nemorino is besieged by avaricious village girls. Rattled by his newfound popularity, Adina discovers that Nemorino has joined the regiment to get the money to buy a potion and win her love…
As you may have guessed, the plot works itself out in the end but not before a dejected Nemorino has the opportunity to sing the moving aria ‘Una furtive lagrima’ (A furtive tear). Such are the mishaps and mayhem before our two protagonists are allowed to fall into each other’s arms that the entire performance lasts for close on three hours, including interval time to allow the audience to stretch their legs and enjoy a drink or two. Despite the length of the performance, L’ElisirD’Amore will no doubt be an unforgettable evening – such a rich performance in a truly unique setting is indisputably something to write home about!
The evening beforehand, the unemployed can enjoy the last rehearsal of the show free of charge by turning up at the venue with their unemployment card.
The Elixir of Love
The 15thPafos Aphrodite Festival presents L’ElisirD’Amore performed by the Opera Futura Verona in conjunction with the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra on September 6, 7 and 8 at 20.00. Tickets cost €25, €40, €50 and €70 can be purchased online at www.pafc.com.cy. For further information and bookings call 26 822218 or 8000-8005. There will be a simultaneous overtitle translation of the libretto into both Greek and English