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Elena Xanthoudakis chats about Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore

The Australian opera singer charms us in this interview ahead of taking the stage with the Singapore Lyric Opera as Adina in the debut of L’elisir d’amore in Singapore this month.

Which is your favourite scene in L’elisir d’amore?

Honestly it is hard to choose one favourite scene. I’d say it is a tie between the first duet “Chiedi allaura lusinghiera” where Nemorino’s intelligent counter arguments about the real nature of love and fidelity only serve to irritate Adina and Adina’s final scene when she realises she behaved like an absolute fool and that she really loves Nemorino! Both are really fun to play for totally different reasons!

Do you think you and Adina could be friends in the real world?

Actually, I think Adina and I would totally be friends in the real world. While I do find her headstrong and perhaps a little difficult, I think she is a real business woman and entrepreneur, where she owns the whole seaside resort, the hotel, bar and cafe and the cinema. And is looking to expand her businesses! I respect a woman who is confident and can hold her own — Adina is that woman. She does have a long way to go through, with learning her own heart. But that’s why her big fall is so interesting. 

Would you recommend L’elisir d’amore to someone who’s never been to the opera?

L’elisir d’amore is possibly the most perfect opera to take someone to for the first time! It is light-hearted, fun, has great melodies, great characters, a strong love story and some truly beautiful arias. It works on so many levels. A perfect introduction!

As a performer, is it more or less taxing to be in a comic opera than a more traditional serious Italian opera?

It depends as the technical challenges in bel canto can be both very high in either. Having sung a number of Donizetti’s more serious and dramatic roles, both light and heavy, Lucia to Maria Stuarda and Anna Bolena, while there are technical challenges in all bel cantos to be efficient, expressive…But yes, Adina is a little lighter, and a tiny bit shorter a role, I think, which makes a difference.

Do you have any rituals before going up on stage?

I don’t have rituals per say but I have a pretty strict warm up process with stretches and vocal exercises to make sure the voice is really ready to go before I step on stage. I’ve mentioned for fun before that I like to wear a contrast shade of underwear under my costume, but that’s really just to amuse me! I know it won’t mean that I sing any better!

If you could perform alongside anyone of your choosing, who would it be and why?

I would love to sing with either Mario del Monaco — though I can’t imagine in what — or Pavarotti, possibly in this exact opera. It would be a thrill to stand beside them!

As a young girl, how did you come to be a soprano, and what did your friends think about it?

As a child I was already interested in music, in choir and in singing in general. I was fortunate to go to schools that had great music programmes. As a teenager, I liked both pop and classical music, and actually, I don’t think my friends thought it was weird. It was just what I wanted to do. Plus, lots of my friends were musicians and the others just accepted we were part of the music programme and often complimented us on our performing. I also had lots of friends in the Australian Girls Choir and so it wasn’t really an issue.

What other forms of music gets you going? Something you’d play on the stereo at home or in the car.

I have to say I have a huge soft spot for jazz. It suits my personality and I just love the smooth jazz of the past — to listen to and also to sing along! But driving music is something else!  I prefer something more like Maroon 5 or Bruno Mars.

The Singapore Lyric Opera’s production of L’elisir d’amore will run at the Esplanade Theatre from May 19-22. Tickets at Sistic.