Last night to Opera Australia’s production of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love, directed by Simon Phillips.

I was shocked at the state of the house and made a remark to one of the ushers. “It’s the third time,” she said, by way of an explanation.

That’s not much of an explanation in the brave new world of opera-Terracini where everyone, judging by the rate at which familiar works return, is assumed to be a first-timer.

Last time was in 2006, when I saw it. I was living in Perth at the time of the first Sydney outing in 2001 and so missed it.

The present return is possibly the most strongly cast.  It’s a shame that Rachelle Durkin was indisposed for the opening night because, despite whatever praise the critics heaped on Jane Ede for stepping in, Rachelle is a woman with a very special comic talent on top of her musical gifts.  I think of her as a kind of soprano Bruce Spence.  Of the other principals, only Samuel Dundas seemed a little light on vocally by comparison, though his stage presence went a long way to make up for that.  Simon Parris went later and so saw Durkin, which makes his review the most accurate.

The production itself is delightful and more, from the sets, costumes to the comic business which, for once, ocker surtitles included, (though from my front row seats I only occasionally glance up at them) is genuinely funny.  And with the famous Una furtive lagrima, the work itself takes a masterful step from the comic to the romantic.

So why so few people?  When I looked on Sunday afternoon, of the two remaining weeknight performances, 786 (on Wednesday) and 802 (on Friday) of a total of 1441 tickets were still available for sale. The final performance, a Sunday matinee, was faring slightly better with 415 tickets left but as matinees go that is a very poor house.

Maybe Mr Terracini has been too busy selling next year’s season (and himself) to the world to notice.  It is likely that people aren’t prepared to fork out the big money required for what they expect will be a mildly amusing night’s entertainment.

Whatever the reason for the present situation, there isn’t much sign of OA doing anything to shift the remaining seats by way of reduction of price.  Which, as ever, is a scandal.

7 Responses to “Elixir”

  1. wanderer Says:

    There was an email on 21 August with A reserve @ $139 and B reserve @ $99 (promo code CHORUS) for the rest of the Sydney season.

    I looked again at Don Giovanni. But costs aside (and that’s a big aside) I am starting to realise more and more that going is a habit, and for me (and presumably many others) the rhythm is broken and unless there’s something outstanding (like the Kasper Holten Onegin), one is kept distracted by current allegiances. I mean, this week there’s the ACO and QUEEN!

    Loss of depth in the subscriber base at the expense of potential new recruits is a risky game. Moreover, the SSO are firing big opera guns in the Concert Hall (and so they should) and OA might have been smart to have taken that step first. One scandalously priced Kaufmann concert doesn’t quite do it.

  2. marcellous Says:

    There are discounted offers around (Scoopon?) but as far as I can see they are all in the nature of a rush (you are allocated your seat on the night). This isn’t much use so far as I am concerned with the cheaper reserves as the choice of seat can be crucial: I think the discount would need to be more before it was attractive to many.

    The man at the box office got very terse indeed (amazing hardening of tone) when I asked about these and made it clear that there would be no budging from the advertised price. It reminded me of Scott Morrison sticking his chin out as he does what he knows lots of us think is the wrong thing.

    As of just now there remain 754 seats available for Wednesday night, 764 for Friday and 402 for Sunday. If it’s a poker game they are playing, then they’re dealing a mean hand against themselves with the taxpayers’ money already given to them.

  3. marcellous Says:

    As at 5 or 6pm on Wed there were still about 600 seats unsold.

  4. wanderer Says:

    It’s a worry and with those numbers for ‘popular’ works, the outlook has to be bleak. If it were Britten, say, they/he would be saying – can’t sustain that. It makes you wonder if he’s taken exactly the wrong approach and we’d be better off following the German model of outrage and contemporary young audience engagement. Mind you, we don’t have their musical maturity. There’s the (Brandis) review coming up too, next big hurdle.

    • marcellous Says:

      Elixir is number 13 in the Operabase 2012-13 figures for number of performances (Donizetti’s number 1 in the list).

      My own feeling is that the musicals route is not the way to go because having a shorter opera season and fewer operas is not the way to cultivate an opera-going public. It is a short-term fix which trashes the “brand.”

      Maybe the brand is on the way out anyway, but I don’t think OA management deserve the credit they like to claim for how they are going at present. It should go without saying that leaving a house 600-seats empty isn’t doing anything either to cultivate any future public.

  5. Opera 2014 | Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Elixir of Love, […]

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