|The Cast of "Elixir of Love"|
(photo: Met Opera)
Donizetti's beloved bel canto opera L'Elisir d'Amore or Elixir of Love would seem at first to be the perfectly logical choice for the Metropolitan Opera to present as its current HD Broadcast in anticipation of Valentine's Day. And so it was, in this finely tuned production.
In 1836 in an Italian village, the young Nemorino (tenor Matthew Polenzani), in love with the beautiful farm owner Adina (soprano Pretty Yende), is upset with the arrival of Sergeant Belcore (baritone Davide Luciano) who firt flirts with Adina and then proposes to her. The subsequent arrival of Dulcamara (bass Ildebrando D'Arcangelo), a wandering peddler of “medicines”, incites Nemorino into buying a “cure all” love potion (in truth, a cheap bottle of Bordeaux). Drinking it down, he becomes so certain of success with his wooing of Adina that he feigns indifference to her. Hurt and surprised, she agrees to marry Belcore at once.
|Matthew Polenzani in "Elixir of Love"|
(photo: Met Opera)
At the feast for the wedding, Adina demands that Nemorino be present for her signing of the marriage contract. Meanwhile Nemorino, feeling he needs another dose of the “love potion” (it was apparently a good year) but lacking the funds to buy one, enlists in Belcore's regiment in order to receive a volunteer's bonus. While this transpires, the girls of the village, including Adina's friend Giannetta (Ashley Emerson), learn that Nemorino's rich uncle has died, leaving him his entire fortune. Naturally, they all now seek his favor, which convinces him the potion is working. This helps Adina to realize her true feelings, so she buys Nemorino's contract from the army, confesses her love for him, and marries him on the spot. (Well, after all, we should've known, the tenor almost always gets the girl, almost never the baritone).
This performance was expertly led by Conductor Domingo Hindoyan. The Production, first revealed a few seasons ago, is by Bartlett Sher (a man with an incredibly busy opera and Broadway theater schedule) and Stage Direction by Gina Lapinski. The technical effects included the lovely Set Design by Michael Yeargan, pleasant peasant Costume Design by Catherine Zuber, and effective Lighting Design by Jennifer Tipton. The Live in HD Director was Matthew Diamond, with HD Host Susanna Phillips. As always, the Chorus shone under the direction of Chorus Master Donald Palumbo. On the other hand, the direction of the crowd scenes was a bit chaotic.
But Valentine's Day or not, this was a performance to treasure, mostly thanks to the ardent acting and singing on display, especially from the two leads. Yende is far more than just pretty (notably in her high florid roulades especially in the second act), and Polenzani brought the house down (as Nemorino should) in his justly famous aria, Una furtiva lagrima.
It was a production to share as well, with one's valentine or whomever, and there still remains an opportunity to do just that.
Encore HD Broadcast on Wednesday (Valentine's Day ) Feb.14th at a theater near you.