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The Elixir of Love at the King’s Head Theatre | Review

David Powton and Alys Roberts. (c) Bill Knight.
David Powton and Alys Roberts. (c) Bill Knight.

Opera has long been seen, rightly or wrongly, as a high brow form of theatre and this perception alone is enough to put many people off going. Cue Opera’r Ddraig, a Welsh opera company who take classic operas and adapt them to Welsh settings. Their latest adaptation sets Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore on Barry Island, probably most famous for its links to Gavin and Stacey. The result is brilliant.

Adina owns a café in Barry, Nicky sits in that café all day mulling over his unrequited love for Adina until conman Dulcamara comes along and sells him an elixir which will make him irresistible to women. However, whilst he is waiting the 24 hours for it to work, Brandon, a member of the Royal Navy, comes back from sea and proposes to Adina. Chaos ensues.

This adaptation by Chris Harris and David Eaton is expertly written to keep all the key points of Donizetti’s original story, whilst making the new setting completely believable and relevant. The lyrics are fast paced and very funny – there is something so refreshingly brilliant about hearing a variety of swear words sung in operatic voice. Matthew Kellet’s Dulcamara, dressed in an ‘I Love Barry’ T-shirt, was outstanding. His over-the-top caricature of a conman never felt too much, and his facial expressions told a story of their own. In fact, the whole cast were very strong with beautiful singing and excellent acting. The intimate setting of the theatre only enhanced this, making the audience feel very much a part of the show.

I admit that I am not a seasoned opera goer. One issue I often have when I do venture to opera performances is that I find lyrics hard to understand and therefore stories hard to follow. However, this was not an issue for me at all in this production with many lyrics sung several times over, helping me where I had missed it the first time. The staging also aided this with the cast moving around the stage so different members of the cast were closer to you at different repeats. As a result I was able to appreciate the full brilliance of the story.

In all honesty, I loved everything about this production. The story was gripping, the performances were brilliant, and I laughed constantly. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

5 Star Rating

Review by Emily Diver

Following their critically acclaimed productions of Carmen, La Traviata and La bohème, the King’s Head Theatre joins forces with acclaimed Welsh opera company Opera D’draig for a quirky, romantic and enchanting new take on Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, presented in English as The Elixir of Love. The production will run from 25 September to 26 October 2019, with a press night on Monday 30 September.

Originally set in the basquie country of Northern Spain in the 1870’s, this new English version of The Elixir of Love transposes the action to the Italian immigrant community in the Welsh seaside town of Barry Island, in 1982. As the Falklands war gains momentum and Thatcherism ravages the UK, can lovelorn poet Nemorion win the affections of the charismatic Adina?

Donizetti’s comic masterpiece The Elixir of Love is transposed to 1980’s Barry Island for a brand new production at the King’s Head Theatre.


Creative Team
Chris Harris – Co-librettist
David Eaton – Co-librettist and Musical Director
Hannah Noone – Director
Amanda Mascarenhas – Designer
Nic Farman – Lighting Designer

Season: Wednesday 25 September – Saturday 26 October 2019

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  • Emily Gami

    I am a 25 year old Geography teacher who really loves the theatre. I first fell in love with the theatre when I was 15 and since moving to London 4 years ago I have tried to see as many shows as possible. On the rare occasions I am not at work or at the theatre I can usually be found on a tennis court or curled up somewhere with a good book

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