From left, Chenuka Lakwijaya as Nemorino, Deeandra Miranda as Adina and Joe Messner as Sgt. Belcore in "The Elixir of Love" staged in Surrey by the Young People's Opera Society of B.C., from June 20 to 23 at Surrey Arts Centre's Studio Theatre. (Submitted photo: Pat Higinbotham)

Punjab-set ‘The Elixir of Love’ comic opera in Surrey to showcase promising young singers

Five-show run at arts centre for Young People's Opera Society of B.C. production

A farming village in India, not Italy, is the setting for a version of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera, The Elixir of Love, at Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre.

A five-show, Thursday-to-Sunday run of the production, by Surrey-based Young People’s Opera Society of B.C., will be staged from June 20 to 23 at the Bear Creek Park venue.

It’s a story of how “a little bottle of Bordeaux, disguised as a magic potion, can bring on pleasantry, tom-foolery, buffoonery and, ultimately, true love,” explains a post on the company’s website (yposbc.org).

Close to 40 performers, including leads, chorus and musicians in a small orchestra, will hit the stage for the two-hour show, directed by Dolores Scott.

The lyrics will be sung in English and the story set in the Punjab region, the heart of India’s Sikh community, with costumes to match the locale.

“I have been wanting to do this for so long and we finally get to do cross-cultural work with our wonderful South Asian neighbours,” Patricia Dahlquist, who founded YPOSBC in 2005, told the Now-Leader.

As part of a collaboration, she said the company was invited to do a half-hour version of the opera for one of Surrey’s South Asian events.

“We have just just performed this version for the Vancouver Opera Festival performances in the plaza (at Queen Elizabeth Theatre). “We were enthusiastically received by the audience members and the Vancouver Opera alike. It was a wonderful experience for our young participants.”

In The Elixir of Love story, Adina is a proud, smart and beautiful estate owner. Nemorino is a young and simple estate worker and is in love with her, but she laughs at his declaration and he is dejected. When he learns of how the fabled Tristan used a magic love potion to win his beloved Isolde’s heart, Nemorino decides to buy some elixir of love from a flamboyant, self-professed doctor. The elixir is just a bottle of cheap wine, “but the hilarity that ensues is only comparable to the beautiful singing that accompanies it.”

Scott said rehearsals began in January, several months after the leads were cast and had a good chance to learn their singing parts.

“I’m so happy with the singing,” Scott raved. “The leads are 16, 17 years old, up to age 23, and that’s really young for opera singing. I don’t like to put expectations on voices that young, but these singers are really sounding mature, and I’m thrilled for them, just so excited. I see career voices in several of these singers.”

Also, Scott is thrilled with the costumes created for the show, among other highlights.

“The costumes are so gorgeous, especially in the second act with the party scene,” Scott said. “It’s colour, colour, colour – just stunning. Many people donated those from the beginning,” she added, “and we filled in the gaps at Seva Thrift Store on Scott Road. They’ve been so helpful with everything, and they’re making sure everything is worn appropriately and correctly, just wonderful people.”

For show times and tickets, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566. Surrey Arts Centre is located at 13750 88th Ave.

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