The Elixir of Love, Blackheath, 2010

“The professional solo work, especially from Elena Xanthoudakis as Adina, Nicholas Sharratt as Nemorino and Robert Poulton as Dulcamara is magnificent. Like everyone else in the audience I love Sharratt’s famous Act 2 aria and Poulton’s deft diction and acting as the very funny quack doctor. And it is all immaculately controlled by Nicholas Jenkins.”

Susan Elkin, The Stage

“It proved a perfect vehicle for the chorus and orchestra drawn from the locality and a top-notch quintet of solo vocalists.

Elena Xanthoudakis was the flighty Adina, confidently spinning out the coloratura like a bird in flight, Nicholas Sharratt an ardent Nemorino, the simple village lad in love with her, while Grant Doyle blustered and swaggered as the over-weening Belcore.”

Simon Thomas, Whatsonstage.com

“Staged in the round and performed in Amanda Holden’s translation, Harry Fehr’s pretty, witty production of The Elixir of Love for Blackheath Halls Community Opera propelled Donizetti’s romcom into rural 1940s Britain, with a 100-strong chorus of land girls, fire wardens, home guards and schoolchildren, and some bunting, sandwiches and scones for the wedding party. In a neat twist to the first scene, Nicholas Sharratt’s Nemorino is a bookish romantic whose copy of Tristan and Isolde is snatched and roundly mocked by Elena Xanthoudakis’s Adina – giving her something concrete to regret and him some much-needed intellectual clout.

You can fill a hall with friends and relatives, but holding their attention – from the texting teens to the cognoscenti – takes skill. Fehr’s movement direction was excellent, making full and lively use of the hall while not losing focus on the lovers. Robert Poulton’s whisky-swigging spiv of a Dulcamara arrived on a bicycle, while US Army Sergeant Belcore (Grant Doyle) had pockets full of sweets to keep the children quiet. Every member of the chorus seemed to know exactly who they were supposed to be, and each one developed with the story.

Despite some unforgiving speeds from conductor Nicholas Jenkins, the orchestra played with style and spirit, with particularly fine work from the flute and harp. The women’s semi-chorus, led by Helen Bailey’s Giannetta, was excellent. Having promised a furtive tear last week, I managed rather more than one. Xanthou-dakis’s transformation from brittle tease to heartbroken penitent was deeply affecting, and Sharratt‘s Act II aria simply lovely. Elixir was Blackheath’s fifth production. At this rate, their sixth will be a must-see.”

Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday