Words by Ruth and Thomas Martin and Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Nuffield Theatre,
June 1989
Director: Pam de Grouchy
Cast List
Sergeant Belcore
Doctor Dulcamara
Bottle Wallah

Notes on this performance

72. L’Elisir d’Amore             

The problem with opera…

When the auditions for new members took place there were several potential members attracted by the prospect of singing in Donizetti’s masterpiece. One, a music teacher at a local school and a fine tenor, was accepted in a heartbeat but, when he discovered that the piece was not being sung in the original Italian, he soon left!

The Echo reporter, however, came from the opposite end of the operatic appreciation spectrum as she wrote: ‘It always amuses me the way, in opera, blandishments are sung in such a grand style. “Would you like a glass of wine?” loses nothing if spoken, in fact it might add to the dramatic effect if certain lines were simply said. I would have preferred Southampton Operatic Society to have used some dialogue in its presentation of Donizetti’s comic opera.’ However, she did go on to state, ‘The story, about a pedlar conning rural folk into buying a dud love potion, was beautifully sung – on a stage barely big enough to hold the bright and tuneful chorus.’

Pam de Grouchy directed this production, aided by Pamela Bennett as MD and they did a fine job. The crowded stage was not just due to the large chorus (including Rae Baker and Nyle Wolfe, two junior members who would shortly become professionals) and a seven-piece village band but also because of an impressive bridge carrying a steam train and coach. The train (Albie Minns as its driver) delivered Dr Dulcamara and his Bottle Wallah (a ‘blacked up’ Dominic O’Farrell – was this still allowed in 1989?) to the village where David Jupp delivered his memorable opening number.

The cast list for L’Elisir d’Amore only features five named characters, so it comes as no surprise that the principal line up was a very strong one. David’s portrayal of Dulcamara was masterful (he even managed to sing at the wedding scene in a pair of comedy false teeth!) and Tony Reid was a very convincing Nemorino – his rendition of ‘Una Furtiva Lagrima’ was especially moving - whilst Allen Mansell’s bombastic Sergeant Belcore was perfectly judged. Jill Charnley may have exceeded the usual playing age of Adina a little, but she sang the part beautifully and was well supported by Susan Strange as her best friend, Giannetta.

The Echo’s report was less detailed, ‘David Jupp’s Dulcamara arrived like Fu Manchu, in a steam drawn coach which delighted the audience, and Jillian Charnley sang a mischievous Adina, who love-sick Tony Reid as Nemorino spent all night wooing. His rival, Allen Mansell’s Belcore came straight out of the school for pompous idiots.’

Bob Gibson had long championed a more efficient method of putting on a show and this was trialled for L’Elisir d’Amore. Instead of going through the Committee for every decision, a Production Manager (Bob) was elected and was joined by the Producer and MD to create a Production Team, this was then responsible for everything. Under their organisational skills, the show nearly broke even (a loss of £70) – if only Albie had used a little less coal on his train!

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Duet

Jillian Charnley (Adina) with Anthony Reid (Nemorino)

Photo of David and Tony

David Jupp (Doctor Dulcamara) and Anthony Reid (Nemorino)

Photo of Train

Centre Stage: Susan Strange (Giannetta), Allen Mansell (Sergeant Belcore). With the train: Albert Minns (Driver), Dominic O'Farrell (Bottle Wallah), David Jupp (Doctor Dulcamara)

 LB books dog

Hopefully coming to you in early 2021!