Bel Canto Opera’s 2003 production of

The Elixir of Love

by Gaetano Donizetti

with a new English libretto and stage direction by Tom Boyd

Orchestra conducted by William Bell


CLICK ABOVE to watch SGT. BELCORE choose the fairest (Come paride) - - - CLICK ABOVE to hear ADINA tell the legend of Tristan and Isolde, ACT I

"Strong cast provides a potent mix...Tom Boyd's production works a treat... twice as witty as Gilbert and Sullivan...should have you chuckling all the way home...William Bell handles the musical side with his customary panache and the singing is superb..." GLOUCESTERSHIRE ECHO, 3 March 2003

"Super singing...William Bell conducts a lively account of Donizetti’s sparkling, tuneful score. Tom Boyd’s libretto fits the music like a glove... a very entertaining production" OXFORD TIMES , 7 March 2003

"Yet another sumptuous Bel Canto production ... a vintage of the highest quality... Tom Boyd’s lyrics (are) witty and inventive. Elixir was, in several people’s opinion, the best Bel Canto production yet...(and) this is some compliment. WILTS. & GLOUCESTERSHIRE STANDARD , 1 March 2003 (click here to read full reviews)


Adina - Amanda Boyd Bailey

Nemorino - Philip O’Brien

Doctor Dulcamara - Stephen Wells

Sergeant Belcore - Paul Sheehan

Giannetta - Susan Black

Gelsomina - Pippa Meekings


CLICK ABOVE to hear Nemorino's opening aria "What a beauty!" (Quanto è bella) xxand to watch Dr Dulcamara and Adina sing "Barcarolle for two voices" x

CLICK ABOVE to watch Sgt. Belcore enlist Nemorino in the army, and Adina's discovery of the reason for it from Dr Dulcamara

TOM BOYD'S new ELIXIR OF LOVE libretto available from BEL CANTO OPERA for £5.00 ($10.00 US) + P & P

TOM BOYD'S version of The Elixir of Love was produced by STANLEY OPERA at the Hinckley Concordia Theatre from 9 - 12 April, 2008


VILLAGERS: Che bel giorno, Signorina, all the world’s at Bar Adina when the spring is in the air, and the blood begins to surge with that old primeval urge

CLICK HERE to see and hear Nemorino's first aria , 'What a Beauty" (Quanto è bella)

ADINA: You’re a nice honest young man, Nemorino, but you have zabaione for brains. You’ve got the wrong sow by the ear. I’m not the girl for you.


Sgt. BELCORE: Like the tale of handsome Paris, whose happy duty was to judge beauty, I’ll not fail to choose the fairest and award her this sumptuous bouquet. Paris only gave an apple, (you can buy six for a lira), but these flowers were considerably dearer, which reflects my generous side, and shows how I’d provide for a bride.
CLICK HERE to see and hear Sgt. Belcore's aria 'choosing the fairest' (come paride)
Dr. DULCAMARA: I have here testimonials in praise of what I’ve done. Here’s one from a Bavarian, a male octogenarian, who bought my primal water, then sired a baby daughter by Charlotte, who’s a starlet, and has just turned twenty-one! And since then he has sired another daughter and a son! The water that he’s taken is certain to awaken the slumbering libido of old men in search of fun!

CLICK HERE to see and hear Dr. Dulcamara's sales pitch

Dr. DULCAMARA: Then be off, you lucky fellow, by tomorrow you’ll feel mellow - but the most important bonus is what else the drink will do: from the country or the city, every girl who’s young and pretty will perceive you as Adonis and will throw themselves at you!
ADINA: Dear Sergeant, you’re so gallant - your tactics so persuasive. Sgt. BELCORE: My quarry has a talent to stall and be evasive. ADINA: But if you’re perservering, you’ll subjugate your prey. Sgt. BELCORE: Ah, what you say is cheering. ADINA: March on, and you will win the day!

Sgt. BELCORE: If you go near her tomorrow morning, I hate to comtemplate what I’d do! So sling your hook, boy! This is a warning: if you were sober, I’d murder you!
Dr. DULCAMARA & GUESTS: Lets drink to all those gathered here in such congeniality - Here’s to your hospitality! God bless the bride and groom!

Sgt. BELCORE: For me, making love and drinking are life’s overriding pleasures. I take them in equal measures - no bounds to what I’d consume

ADINA: I wish that Nemorino was here to grieve in gloom.

CLICK HERE to see and hear the saucy party-piece duet by Dr Dulcamara and Adina at the wedding banquet (Barcarolle for two voices)

GIANNETTA: It must remain a secret - keep it under wraps! Now Nemorino’s rich as Croesus...he may be seeking a wife, perhaps! But it’s a secret...don’t spread it around!

NEMORINO: Who can testify better than I that the Elixir of Love is guaranteed 100 percent effective!

All photographs by Roger Phillips

CLICK ABOVE to see and hear Giannetta' s gossip with the ladies xxxxxxxx CLICK ABOVE to hear Dr Dulcamara's sales pitch




Strong cast provides a potent mix

What is a chap to do when the object of his affection spurns his advances? Nemorino, the unlikely hero of Donizetti’s comic masterpiece, is desperate until he meets a smooth-talking quack doctor ready to exploit every situation to his advantage.

In his top hat and fancy waistcoat, Stephen Wells is a larger than life conman ably supported by Pippa Meekings as his oddball assistant, Gelsomina. Philip O’Brien as the endearingly effete Nemorino melted everyone’s heart with his singing of A Furtive Tear. His rival, Sergeant Belcore, played by Paul Sheehan, proves less endearing. Not content with stealing Nemorino’s sweetheart, he also enlists him into the army for a pittance. Amanda Boyd Bailey tops the strong cast of principals with her portrayal of the coquettish heroine Adina, who eventually discovers that Nemorino’s feelings for her are completely sincere.

Set near Trieste on the eve of World War One, Tom Boyd’s production works a treat. William Bell handles the musical side with his customary panache and the singing is superb.

Twice as witty as Gilbert and Sullivan and with an endless flow of ear-catching tunes, this Elixir may not work wonders for your love life, but should have you chuckling all the way home. This sparkling production of Donizetti’s romantic comedy by Cotswold-based Bel Canto Opera is directed by Tom Boyd and the orchestra is conducted by musical director William Bell.

Roger Jones

THE OXFORD TIMES - 7 March, 2003

Super singing

"For ladies of certain age", sings Dr Dulcamara seductively, "with bottoms growing bigger, this potion made from thyme and sage, restores your girlish figure." But for waiter Nemorino, it’s a case of trying to land a girl in the first place. Dulcamara has just the thing - the elixir of love: "It’s just plonk! Cheap Lambrusco!" the good doctor reveals in an aside to the audience. Unnecessary explanation - we had already seen the special elixir label being hastily slapped on to a wine bottle.

This delightful detail is typical of Bel Canto’s production. Bel Canto was founded in 1989 by William Bell, who is still very much around: here he conducts a lively account of Donizetti’s sparkling, tuneful score. The company has another major asset too: Tom Boyd, who not only acts as stage director, but also provides a new English translation for each opera. His Elixir libretto fits the music like a glove.

And what an effect that Lambrusco has had. Poor Nemorino - he begins the evening nervously twisting his waiter’s order pad, but now he radiates confidence: "Hour by hour, she’ll love me more". Philip O’Brien’s acting skills make sure that we genuinely feel for Nemorino, and don’t just dismiss him as a gullible loser. Vocally, he sounds under a spot of strain at the top of voice, but maybe that’s stress, caused by the effort necessary to woo Amanda Boyd Bailey’s Adina - she’s as cool as a cucumber one minute, wickedly teasing the next. This is a beautifully controlled and sung performance. Booming clean over Adina’s head is Paul Sheehan’s splendidly bone-headed Sergeant Belcore. No doubt about it, the way to attract a girl is to begin by addressing her like a raw recruit on the parade ground, this Belcore has plainly decided. And as for Dr Dulcamara, Stephen Wells presents him most convincingly as a thoroughly slippery eel.

I saw Elixir in the charming Edwardian surroundings of the Bingham Hall, Cirencester - appropriate too, for the colourful set and costumes place the opera just before 1914. The Bingham has a lively accoustic, however, and the spirited chorus could have done with spitting out their consonents a little more rigorously on opening night. But this was a blip in a very entertaining production.

Giles Woodforde



Love story will leave you feeling good

The Elixir of Love is a comedy that actually makes people laugh. The plot centres around the apparently hopeless love of Nemorino, a wimpish and guileless servant, for his haughty and flirtatious employer, Adina. When Adina decides to bestow her favours on the womanising Sergeant Belcore, Nemorino is mortified. He finds unlikely succour in a 'love potion' provided by the travelling charlatan, Dr Dulcamara. The potion is, in fact, the Italian plonk, Lambrusco, but it seems to Nemorino that it has enabled him to win Adina's heart. So all ends happily. The lovers look forward to marital bliss, Belcore goes off to look for other women, Duncamara goes off to look for other fools and the audience goes off with a large dose of 'the feel good factor'.

But the feel good factor was also produced by yet another sumptuous Bel Canto production as the company turned this alleged Lambrusco of the operatic world into a vintage of the highest quality. As with all recent Bel Canto productions, four professionals were drafted in to play the principals who are carefully delineated and revolve round the moral centre point of effete goodness that is Nemorino - Adina the flighty and faithless female, Belcore the womanising sergeant and Dulcamara, the duplicitous, self-seeking charlatan. The singers, who are all on the threshold of their careers, realised the comic tensions in the relationships with great skill and conviction.

Amanda Boyd Bailey as Adina was spellbinding. Her beautiful clear soprano voice and commanding stage presence underlined the impression made during her Bel Canto debut as Martha in 2002. Stephen Wells, who also made a triumphant debut in Martha, was superb as Dr Dulcamara, his acting talents complementing his rich baritone as it effortlessly - and audibly - delivered Tom Boyd's lyrics. The naïve and inadequate Nemorino was played by Philip O'Brien, though there was nothing inadequate about his performance. His beautiful tenor harmonised perfectly with Miss Boyd Bailey and his rendering of the opera's best known aria, A Furtive Tear, was the highlight of a production that was full of highlights. Paul Sheehan as Belcore provided another counterpoint to Nemorino, his powerful voice and expansive presence dominating whenever he was on stage, and Pippa Meekings made a lithe and convincing sorcerer's apprentice. Special mention must go to Sue Black who has moved from lead roles to supporting roles, to choral roles to backstage roles. From scene stealer to scene shifter, Sue is a real team player.

The choral work was as ever melodic, the choreography lively and imaginative, the set colourful and Tom Boyd's lyrics witty and inventive. Under Tom's stage direction and William Bell's musical direction, Elixir was, in several people's opinion, the best Bel Canto production yet. As I maintained after several of their recent productions that they would find it difficult to get any better, this is some compliment.

Stuart Russell