After more than 180 years (1832), audiences are still laughing through their tears at Gaetano Donizetti’s comic masterwork, The Elixir of Love.
It is a commonplace to say that comedy is more difficult than tragedy, but what about an opera that walks that delicate boundary between the two?
Taking as a starting part the most common of themes -- provincial love and its difficulties -- Donizetti achieves something almost miraculous.
Opening Night in New York
A peasant that must sign his name with an X falls hopelessly in love with a local woman who is both well to do (a landowner) and very self possessed. Adina is reading about the lovers Tristan and Isolde and mocks them, Nemorino who is desperately in love with her, sees hope. What if he could find such a potion?
Enter Doctor Dulcamara, who claims to offer just such a drink, but for a price of course. The good doctor informs the innocent Nemorino that he need only wait for a day for the drink to take effect and of course for the charlatan to escape.
Then there are the inevitable complications and obstacles that help the comedy to work and bring out a surprising, and convincing, elegiac and tender quality. There is a dying uncle that Nemirino must look after while trying to woo Adina, who finds his shyness maddening.
Adding to the drama of love is the soldier Belcore, who is histrionic, flattering and opportunistic. Adina is stunned to see that Nemirino is not only not jealous, but confident that he will now win Adina as he waits for the “elixir” to take effect; the elixir is, in fact, common red wine.
Now furious at her shy suitor’s sudden confidence, Adina, hearing the army must leave town early, pushes the marriage (to Belcore) ahead to the same day!
It is the desperation, fear and regret that now spring in his heart that give rise to two bel canto favorites for tenor, "Una furtiva lagrima" (A furtive tear welled up in my eye) and "Adina credimi" (Believe me Adina, I implore you). The two lovers follow with the extended and moving duet P"rendi, per me sei libero" (Take it, I have freed you).
These songs reveal the tender core of the comedy; with each of these expressions of feeling, the seemingly indifferent and haughty Adina moves closer and closer to confessing her own secret yearnings.
Anna Netrebko stars as Adina and Matthew Polenzani plays Nemorino in one of the greatest comedies in opera. Mariusz Kwiecien is the opportunistic Sergeant Belcore and Erwin Schrott features as Dulcamara, the provider of the elixir.
Tune in this Saturday at noon to KPAC and KTXI for the Metropolitan Opera's presentation of Donizetti’s most popular work and a bel canto classic, L’Elisir D’Amore.
- Learn more about this performance online at: www.metoperafamily.org