For the final offering of its current season, Pittsburgh Opera will present Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore) beginning next Saturday evening, April 21. With a libretto by Felice Romani, the music for the comic, melodious opera was composed in just six weeks, and for more than a decade after its premiere in Milan, in 1832, it was the most frequently performed work in Italy. Even today, it’s heard often enough to fall into the top twenty most frequently staged operas in the world. Its famous aria “Una furtiva lagrima” (“A furtive tear”), is a romanza that appears regularly on the concert programs of many tenors, and has been preserved for posterity by a large number of them since the birth of recorded sound, and at least a dozen studio recordings of the entire opera, many boasting legendary singers, have proved popular sellers since the 1950’s.
The simple but engaging plot concerns Nemorino, and his love for “the beautiful and wealthy Adina, who appears to be completely out of his league. His prospects are further diminished when the handsome and dashing Sergeant Belcore arrives. But when Doctor Dulcamara rolls into town and sells Nemorino a bottle of his dubious Elixir of Love, things get very interesting. Why is Nemorino suddenly popular with every girl in the village? Will he win Adina’s love before it’s too late?”
Ekaterina Siurina will sing Adina, Dimitri Pittas, Nemorino, Zachary Nelson, Belcore, Shannon Jennings, Giannetta, Paolo Pecchioli, Dr. Dulcamara, and young Simon Nigam will play Dr. Dulcamara’s assistant. In addition to the wonderful music for the lead singers, the opera has many fine opportunities for the excellent chorus, under Mark Trawka, and the orchestra will be conducted by Christian Capocaccia, whose last excellent turn at the podium with the company will assure him of a hearty welcome.
The production to be presented, owned by Opera North, moves the action to the 1950’s, and will be directed by Daniel Slater. It will be the 8th time he’s directed this production, and Pittsburgh Opera asked him if his approach has evolved since the first. “Yes, it has,” was his reply. “In fact, two years ago Opera North wanted to do it again. They had actually asked me to do it again few years before that, and I didn’t want to. Then they asked me again, and I said ‘Well, I’ll do it again if you don’t mind that we change it.’ Now, we can’t change the set – the set is what it is. The costumes are what they are, within reason. But I wanted to approach it as though Robert Innes Hopkins and I had worked on the set, worked on the costumes, and were looking at them with my choreographer for the first time, thinking ‘what would we do with these things?’ So, we just threw everything we’d done out, and just asked ourselves ‘What is the heart of this story?’ The heart of the story is obviously about Nemorino and Adina. So, we decided to do a staging of the Prelude that focuses attention on that.
“We decided to make the chorus’ body language, movement language, be a little more stylized than it had been before. We basically reinvented the show. This ‘new’ production was at Opera North two years ago, then it went to Houston and now it’s come here. So this is, if you like, the third incarnation of the new version of Elixir – though it’s been done eight times, in my mind this is the third time.
“I think this is one of the most accessible operas in the repertoire. I think it’s got enormous charm. It’s very funny, but it’s also touching. You can really genuinely be moved by the journey that Nemorino goes on, and that Adina goes on, too. So I hope they’ll come out feeling that they really related to those two central characters, and see Nemorino and Adina’s story reflect things that they have gone through in their lives. I hope also, that in the midst of this rather gross Pennsylvania weather we’re all enduring, it offers the audience a little brief two-and-a-half-hour summer holiday on the Amalfi Coast.”
Personally, I would have used several unprintable words to describe the weather in Pittsburgh lately.
“It’s hard to believe our 2017-18 season is almost over,” Christopher Hahn, General Director of Pittsburgh Opera shared with us recently. “We’re proud of the exceedingly high quality of our productions, and the variety we’ve given our patrons. It’s been a stellar blend of the classics, such as Tosca and The Marriage of Figaro, and the contemporary, such as The Long Walk and Moby-Dick, with an edgy world premiere thrown in as well. We enjoy ending our season with a light-hearted comedy, and we know our audiences will fall in love with The Elixir of Love.”
For tickets, photos of the production and much more, visit Pittsburgh Opera.
David Bachman Photography