By Alan Schuster
A preview of Gaetano Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” by The Met Opera: Live in HD at the USCB Center for the Arts, Saturday, Oct. 13, at 12:55 p.m.
There’s an expression in the music world about the kind of melodies that stick with you after you’ve heard them once or twice. It goes something like this: It’s easy to get it into your ear, but hard to get it out of your memory. Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” is a fine example. In the words of opera historian Charles Osborne: “From the high-spirited bars of its prelude to the end of its equally happy finale, there is hardly a dull moment in this entire miraculous score in the most engaging of all comic operas.”
The Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb pretty much assured its success with another headline appearance by the remarkable coloratura soprano, Anna Netrebko. Many will recall last season’s opener in which she starred in the tragic title role of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena.” But for “L’Elisir,” we’ll see and hear her as Netrebko-light.
Synopsis: Nemorino is a poor young farm laborer in love with Adina, a wealthly landowner who seems not to reciprocate his love. When he overhears Adina recounting to her companions a confused version of the story of Tristan, Isolde and their love potion, the gullible Nemorino allows an itinerant quack, Dr. Dulcamara, to sell him an elixir (actually a cheap red wine) which, he is assured, will win Adina for him if he partakes of it. But when Adina announces that she is about to marry the dashing Sergeant Belcore, Nemorino is persuaded by Dulcamara to purchase some more of the magic potion, which he is able to pay for only by allowing Belcore to enlist him in the army. Meanwhile, news of the death of Nemorino’s rich uncle has reached the village. This makes his heir, Nemorino, suddenly popular with the village girls, a state of affairs which he attributes to the elixir. When Adina learns that he has enlisted in order to win her, she realizes that she really loves him. All ends happily, even for Belcore who tells himself that there are plenty of other women in the world.
Act I: All it takes is the sound of a trumpet to begin about twenty minutes of the most comical scene in all of opera. It heralds the arrival of the pompous charlatan, Dr. Dulcamara who proclaims that he has magic elixirs for all occasions. “Udite, udite, o rustici…” (Give me your ear, rustic ones…). A mesmerized Nemorino is duped into buying a bottle after assurances that it will win him Adina’s love. An engaging duet begins with Nemorino’s “Voglio dire — lo stupendo elisir…”
Act II : Nemorino sings: “Una furtiva lagrima…” (A furtive tear…). A “must” aria for every Italian tenor’s concert repertoire! Two impassioned stanzas in which he voices his feelings for Adina.
The finale: With Nemorino and Adina happily standing by, Dulcamara induces a buying frenzy by the villagers, who scramble for every bottle he has. Then he makes a quick departure before anyone — except Nemorino — realizes that it was just cheap wine.
By Alan Schuster