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The Elixir of Love

The Elixir of Love
Virginia Opera 1997 Season
Review excerpts:

“Stage director Worth Gardner and set designer Eduardo Sicangco have decorated Donizetti’s light comedy with a huge gilt frame that emphasizes the fairy-tale nature of this peasant story. And to show that love is everywhere, they’ve added a hunky Cupid played by Michael Pappa, who flies through the air like an amorous Peter Pan. It’s clever and giddy, one of the most enjoyable productions from this company in some time...Worth and Sicangco scored one surprise after another with their whimsical set. The giant frame made the ensemble numbers look like scenes from a painting. Several backdrops taken from Italian masterworks completed the lusty, spirited look of this production.”

*Daily Press,Sunday, November 16, 1997

“Eduardo Sicangco’s gold-frame set and costumes complemented the musical performance perfectly, allowing the principals to have center stage for their comings and goings.”

*The Virginian Pilot, Sunday, November 16, 1997

“It is filled with lovely melodies and it is a visual treat, one of the most beautiful of our productions,” Mark said. Set designer Eduardo Sicangco depicts rich scenery of the village and the countryside within a huge golden frame bracketing the stage, so that when the action freezes an instant on a throng of villages, peasants and soldiers, it appears to be a giant canvas done by Peter Breughl.”

*The Virginian Pilot, Sunday, November 16, 1997

“A velveteen coat-of-many-colors shrouds the proscenium of Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House, puddling off the edge of the stage and into the orchestra pit. It looks old enough to be the curtain that graced the Milanese stage where Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” premiered May 12, 1882. But the enigmatic curtain only hints of an imaginative odyssey that is about to commmence. While waiting, some audience members speculate about what stage director Worth Gardner has in store this time. His 1994 “The Not Mikado” was a bizarre flight of Gilbert and Sullivan parody. Some like it as much as others hated it...Concurrently, Gardner’s opening pantomime warns that while this production might not go over the top, it will be unique. Eduardo Sicangco’s sets are like a period print awakened, spilling pathos-spiced comedy copiously upon the audience...in the proper setting, all gems can sparkile, and this multifaced Virginia Opera production of Donizetti’s most enduring opera is dazzling!”

*Port Folio Weekly,, November 18 - 24, 1997

Unusual set, Cupid character spice ‘Elixir’

“Controversy isn’t a necessity in an artistic production, but a little bit of it never hurts.
The Virginia Opera knew it wasn’t getting a standard set design when it hired director Worth Gardner and designer Eduardo Sicangco to create its new production of “The Elixir of Love”. Neither of these talented artists was interested in designing the familiar farmhouse that’s often a part of this Doninzetti opera set in an Italian village.
Instead, they hung a huge gilt picture frame in the middle of the stage and set the action inside it. But the more unusual addition to this production was a Cupid character played by actor Michael Pappa, who actually flies through the air during the opera.
When the opera opens, he’s snoozing on a grape vine wound around one side of the picture frame. When he’s not sailing through the air, this Cupid teases the other characters or acts as a kind of unseen presence that moves the story forward.
I found the idea refreshing, though there were times when his antics got a little annoying. Other people I talked to either loved him or felt he called attention away from the singers. There wasn’t any middle ground here.
Gardner and Sicangco created more of an uproar when they teamed up in 1993 for the opera’s production of “The Not Mikado.” Truthfully, the rock-pop score and the foul language upset people more than their punk costumes and high-tech set.
Whether you like their current approach or not, the opera company brought them back because they are talented artists who produce a good product.
Gardner doesn’t mind the controversy. “In this business, you’re either a player or a scary commodity,” he says.

*Daily Press, Nove. 23, 1997

“The look of Virginia Opera’s “The Elixir of Love” is the major talking point of the company’s new prodcution. No, the staging doesn’t upstage the music, but it provides a neat postmodern distance from which audiences can appreciate the silliness of Donizetti’s two-week wonder of an opera. And it is eye-catching: Stage director Worth Gardner and set designer Eduardo Sicangco have framed the stage - quite literally- in a gold picture frame.
“It is covered with 6,000 pieces of gold foil,” confirms Virginia Opera’s general and artistic director, Peter Mark. The frame provides the ironic discontinuity (“It’s the opera, stupid!”) necessary for modern audiences to enjoys this slight opera comica, with its sweet, mismatched lovers and opera buffa stock figures of the self-important soldier and quack doctor. And if we didn’t get the point, there’s a further design innovation: draped across the frame, from the first scene, is a live cupid who flies about to aid the lovers and highlight the foibles of other characters.”

*Style Weekly, November 25, 1997

“Combine a cast of singers with excellent voices who are also first-rate actors, superb direction and stage action, a stunning set and costumes, a standout orchestra, a master conductor , and what do you have?
You have Virginia Opera’s prodcution of Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love,”...Stage director Worth Gardner kept the action lively and interesting, while Edurdo Sicangco’s sets and costumes were a feast for the eye...It is hard to imagine a performance of “The Elixir of Love” than can match, much less top, this one.”

*Richmond Times Dispatch, Friday November 25,1997

Posted on Mar 3, 2008 by Registered CommenterEduardo Sicangco | Comments Off

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