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An operatic elixir…

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03/12/2012

By | From the Collections

Lablache, a flamboyant itinerant medicine vendor selling Mariol an aphrodisiac at a country fair.Wellcome Images No.V0016141.

Lablache, a flamboyant itinerant medicine vendor selling Mariol an aphrodisiac at a country fair.Wellcome Images No.V0016141.

On Saturday evening, BBC Radio 3 broadcast Donizetti’s comic opera L’elisir d’amore live from the Royal Opera House.

The plot of the opera revolves around the love potions of the quack doctor Dulcamara and the history of quackery was explored during the interval of the performance.

This discussion – between presenter Sarah Mohr-Pietsch and Colin Jones, Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London – was illustrated with examples from the collections of the Wellcome Library, including this image from a staging of L’elisir d’amore from the 1830s.

Sarah and Colin’s discussion examined the origins of the term ‘quack’, the theatrical nature of quack doctors’ selling techniques and also how the character of Dulcamara became synonymous with quackery in the nineteenth century.

The opera – including the interval discussion – is available from the Radio 3 website for listeners in the UK, along with a gallery featuring images from both the opera and the Wellcome Library items discussed.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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