Saturday, February 28, 2009


Clare's brother Eddie and his wife Ann came to spend the weekend with us, and last night we went to hear Donizetti's comic opera 'Elixir of Love' at the Millennium Centre. It was a wonderful performance, not only because of the superb lead singers, but the marvellous acting of both the women's and men's choruses - a feat of organisation, with so many people on stage. In many ways it reminded me of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and it was only when I bothered later to read the programme notes that I realised Donizetti pre-dated G&S by half a century. I guess the former was an inspiration to the latter.

The opera's love story pivots around the idea that a magic potion can make someone seeking a lover irresistible to others. A showman who purveys cure-all potions comes to town, and is taken seriously by a love-lorn young man, who buys half a bottle of Bordeaux in the scam, drinks it all and then finds all the girls in town except the one he wants are pursuing him amorously. They know (he doesn't) that he has just inherited a fortune, and this makes them all (apart from the one he wants) overcome their indifference towards him. His belief in the power of the 'medicine' is confirmed, and he goes begging the showman for more. The showman in turn is surprised by his accidental success, and this emboldens him to continue his scam with conviction. Needless to say, all ends happily, and true love triumphs over illusion - just.

It was great entertainment, but also thought provoking. Belief in a cure-all remedy, belief in the power of wealth to give a man worth - great illusions, still pursued a hundred and eighty years later. The world has used freely available credit as a cure-all to give the illusion of wealth where little in reality has been created. And our illusions have made fools of us, and sadly much more than fools. Will love be allowed to triumph, even if we genuinely believe in it? The other illusion of our age is that some measure of violence is always going to be efficaceous in solving our problems. Although there are many who voice their disillusionment, there is no sign that this most pernicious of beliefs is losing its hold on those who hold power anywhere in the world.

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