Elixir of Love Review - A Great Valentine Date

Forget the box of chocolates. Don't order the roses.  The most romantic evening in town is at Lyric Opera!

Adina gives Nemorino the notion of love potion.

Donizetti's The Elixir of Love is a timely yet timeless, modern yet old-fashioned, heartfelt yet funny portrayal of love par excellence. If you are not an  operagoer--especially if you're not an operagoer!-- but have wondered if you might enjoy the experience, there's no better place to start.  Elixir reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma!, and many romantic comedies. It's delightful!

We went early to attend the pre-opera lecture which enhanced our opera experience.  Lecturer Jesse Gram was  superb. His sense of humor, together with his vast understanding of the opera was spell-binding.  Most of all, he helped prepare us for a bel canto opera, an opera where the music communicates so eloquently, you almost don't need the projected English translation.

It doesn't take any time to get to the story. Nemorino, a humble country man, loves Adina, a wealthy landowner. When he hears her telling the Tristan and Isolde story, he longs to track down the potion to make himself irresistible to Adina.

Dulcamara peddles his wares to the villagers.

Right on cue and complete with a real, live horse, an itinerant quack, Dulcamara, appears and sells Nemorino what he claims is Isolde’s elixir (it’s just a bottle of cheap wine). But Adina's no pushover and she's no Isolde.  She needs to know if his love is real. And she has a plan to find out

Dulcamara and Adina sing at her "wedding."

To test him, she says she will marry the obnoxious sergeant Belcore. So Nemorino starts looking for more money so he can buy more elixir.

Can Dulcamara make Nemorino irresistible to Adina?

He finds a way. Nemorino enlists in the army so he can buy more elixir with the signing bonus.

Desperate Nemorino drinks deeply

He thinks it’s working when local girls suddenly start throwing themselves at him. In fact, they know that Nemorino’s rich uncle has died, leaving him millions. This is opera, after all.  Somebody's got to die!

When Nemorino sees Adina crying as she watches the other girls, Nemorino knows she loves him and sings his famous, heart-melting aria, “Una furtiva lagrima" in which he declares, “There’s nothing more I need to ask from this life because she loves me.”

has been presented at Lyric six times since 1955, most recently in the 1999/2000 season, when Frank Lopardo portrayed Nemorino.

According to William Mason Lyric general director,
“This is one of the most delightful of all the Italian comic operas, containing some of the most beautiful music in the repertoire, most famously ‘Una furtiva lagrima.’” 

He continues, “We’ve got two terrific casts for the romantic couple: making his Lyric debut, Giuseppe Filianoti (until Feb. 5), who’s enchanted audiences at the Metropolitan – he’ll sing Nemorino opposite our own Nicole Cabell, who was so wonderful in The Pearl Fishers last season. Then Frank Lopardo (opening Feb.7), last season’s marvelous Pinkerton, will return as Nemorino opposite Susanna Phillips. Like Nicole, Susanna is a brilliantly gifted alumna of the Ryan Opera Center who has enjoyed leading-role successes nationwide and her debut as Puccini’s Musetta at the Met last season."

In addition, Alessandro Corbelli, who is internationally acknowledged as today’s greatest  master of the Italian comic style, is returning as the cunning Dr. Dulcamara, and Sgt. Belcore will be the vehicle for another outstanding debut, that of the Italian baritone Gabriele Viviani. Bel canto specialist Bruno Campanella conducts and Vincent Liotta returns to stage the delightful Giulio Chazalettes production.”

In the end it was Adina's elixir that did the trick!

The gorgeous sets and costumes are by Ulisse Santicchi. Jason Brown who debuts a lighting designer, creates an idyllic, sunny countryside.

With its succession of exhilarating arias, duets, and ensembles (the chorus is outstanding), the joys of The Elixir of Love know no bounds. It’s a comedy with a heart, made totally memorable by the bel canto genius of Donizetti. How romantic is that?
THE ELIXIR OF LOVE / Gaetano Donizetti (in Italian with projected English translations) performances beginning at 7:30 p.m., except for matinees at 2:00 p.m. on Jan. 30, Feb. 2, 5 (mat.), 7 (mat.), 10, 13, 19, 22.

For performances through February 5, tenor Giuseppe Filianoti (debut) will sing Nemorino, opposite the Adina of soprano Nicole Cabell.

February 7 through February 22, these roles will be taken by tenor Frank Lopardo and soprano Susanna Phillips.

Great seats from $33 – tickets available for all remaining performances. 
Call 312-332-2244, X5600 to reserve or go to www.lyricopera.org to view video clips and order tickets.

The Mrs. Thomas B. Burke and the I. A. O’Shaugnessy Foundation Production. Revival made possible by Illinois Tool Works Inc., the NIB Foundation, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow.

Photos: Dan Rest

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