By Lynne Gray, PhD
Please note this may be streamed from www.metopera.org.
Saturday, May 30
Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore ~ 2Hrs. & 22Mins.
Conducted by Domingo Hindoyan; starring Pretty Yende, Matthew Polenzani, Davide Luciano, and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo. Transmitted live on February 10, 2018.
Donizetti’s enchanting comic opera, The Elixir of Love is almost as intoxicating as the wine that is passed off by its traveling peddler as the potent love potion of the title. It is the heart-warming tale of a hapless, big-hearted peasant and the better educated landowner he worships. The score is an almost endless sequence of tuneful ensemble numbers and show-stopping arias—not the least of which is the beloved tenor aria near its conclusion, “Una furtive lagrima,” (One furtive tear) when our hero finally believes that his love is returned. It is an opera full of delicious delights.
The bubbly bel canto comedy concerns a spunky female landowner – Adina, a love-struck peasant – Nemorino; a dubious peddler – Dulcamara, whose love potion may or may not help bring the pair together and a pompous flirt- Sergeant Belcore. It is a delight for the entire family. This, and another of Donizetti’s light-hearted comedies, La Fille du Régiment are among the two best operas possible for introducing young people to the genre.
In this performance, the amazing South African soprano, Pretty Yende, stars as Adina, imbuing the character with a wonderfully lovable warmth while showing off her truly luscious bel canto voice in seemingly effortless coloratura passages from beginning to end. Tenor Matthew Polenzani is Nemorino, Adina’s love-struck admirer, whose voice is still quite wonderful, but who (truth be told) is actually just a bit old to be quite convincing in this part (after all, we’ve just seen him as the aging king and father – Idomeneo – a role in which he excelled). The cast also includes baritone Davide Luciano as the swaggering Sergeant Belcore and the multi-talented bass-baritone, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as the wily and wonderful Dr. Dulcamara. Domingo Hindoyan conducts Bartlett’s Sher’s charming production.
You really don’t need much of a story introduction for this one – just sit back and enjoy the loveable Nemorino as he struggles to find the courage to tell the beautiful farm owner Adina that he loves her. As the opera opens, we meet the fun-loving Adina who is reading to a group of villagers the story of Tristan and Isolde (in which, if you remember, a love potion figures quite heavily) and tormenting Nemorino with her indifference. He sings his famous “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara!” (How beautiful she is, how dear to my heart), but to make matters worse for our poor Nemorino, the very self-important Sergeant Belcore marches in with his troops, spots Adina and immediately sets about courting her. In fact, he rather quickly proposes marriage – which she says she will consider. Nemorino is so upset that when they are alone he tells Adina that he loves her. She tells him it’s quite hopeless and that he should follow her example and find a new lover every day. The dejected Nemorino assures her his feelings will never change and that one can never forget their first love.
We then are introduced to the dashing salesman Dulcamara, a purveyor of “elixirs” and other tonics, “Udite, udite, o rustici; Attenti, non fiatate.” (Listen, listen, peasants; don’t say a word.) When the crowd has finally dispersed, the rejected Nemorino asks the good doctor if he has any of Isolde’s love potion. Although Dulcamara does not recognize “Isolde,” he is quick to hook a customer and Nemorino withdraws all his savings to buy the potion – actually a disguised bottle of cheap wine. To cover his bases, Dulcamara tells Nemorino the potion will take 24 hours to work – by which time, Dulcamara naturally expects to be long gone.
Nemorino, of course, drinks it right away (getting quite drunk) and when Adina reappears, he ignores her – feeling quite confident that he will be irresistible to her the very next day. She feels annoyance at the rejection – perhaps she does have feelings for him after all… Their duet (he’s drunk, and she’s mystified by his changed behavior) is great fun, “Esulti pur la Barbara” (I will exult like a barbarian conqueror – tomorrow). Things continue to become much more complicated when Adina agrees to marry Belcore – in a week or two – just in order to spite Nemorino, but Belcore’s regiment is called upon to leave the very next morning and so the wedding must be set for that very evening — before the magic elixir can take effect. Do tune in to see the twists and turns that finally take us to the exuberant happy ending of this perfectly delightful production.
1. Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino and Pretty Yende as Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” at the Met. Photo Credit: Karen Almond/Metropolitan Opera.
2. Davide Luciano as Belcore and Pretty Yende as Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” at the Met. Photo Credit: Karen Almond/Metropolitan Opera.
3. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Dulcamara in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” at the Met. Photo Credit: Karen Almond/Metropolitan Opera.
4. Pretty Yende as Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” at the Met. Photo Credit: Richard Termine for The New York Times
5. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Dulcamara and Pretty Yende as Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore.” Photo Credit: Karen Almond / Metropolitan Opera