Saturday 26 March 2016

Opera Review: L’Elisir d’Amore, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera in two acts premiered in Milan in 1832, but L’Elisir d’Amore remains as crowd-pleasing and entertaining today, especially in the Met’s beautiful production.

Grigolo and Kurzak
Italian peasant Nemorino (Vittorio Grigolo) is desperately in love with well-read landowner Adina (Aleksandra Kurzak), but she’s a perpetual flirt, currently taken by visiting soldier Belcore (Adam Plachetka).

The love triangle plays out against Michael Yeargan’s gorgeous sets, reminiscent of nineteenth-century landscape paintings in their composition. It’s a sort of comedic Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), minus the death and heartache. The only death here is offstage and brings Nemorino wealth and, subsequently, ridiculous levels of female attention, prompting Adina’s jealousy. The chemistry between the leads and the usual comedic misunderstandings keep the audience constantly engaged. It’s easy to follow without the usual rustling of programmes and whispered explanations.

‘Udite, udite, o rustici’
But the comedic heart of Donizetti’s opera, and this production, is Dulcamara (Alessandro Corbelli)—the travelling salesman whose miraculous elixir is fabled to cure all ills, even unrequited love. His aria, ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’, is a highly entertaining operatic sales pitch, and surely the inspiration for Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Pirelli's Miracle Elixir’ in 1979 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Unusually for a comedy not all the misunderstandings are set right, not all the mysteries are unravelled. Dulcamara is never revealed as a fraud and his elixir is heralded as a miracle cure to the end, when young love’s trials have concluded satisfactorily.

Corbelli and Kurzak
Grigolo’s performance was probably the standout in the matinee I saw, but Kurzak was also charming and the chorus made this a true ensemble piece, as Enrique Mazzola conducted.

Adorable child actors, beautiful costuming, fine performances all around and settings that made you feel immersed in Italian landscapes: what more could you ask for in the middle of New York City?

The cast of the Met's production
What productions would you like to see the Secret Victorianist review next? Let me know—here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

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