L’Elisir d’Amore or should we say “the elixir of love”! *spoiler alert* better known as a cheap bottle of wine; just like real life. This fun loving Bel Canto opera by Donizetti centers around two characters; Nemorino and Adina. From the very beginning it is clear to the audience that Nemorino is madly in love with the beautiful, rich landowner Adina. Adina does not reciprocate Nemorino’s affections. Yet, there is no doubt she enjoys the attention and takes it for granted. When sergeant Belcore arrives on the scene to compete for Adina’s affection she does not hesitate to flaunt it in front of Nemorino and the rest of the village for that matter.
Fortunate for Nemorino, Doctor Dulcamara arrives with a cure for ANY Ailment; even a broken heart. Promising Nemorino his special “Elixir of love” will win Adina over Nemorino accepts his position without hesitation. With a fantastically fun scene between the two, Nemorino and Dulcamara banter back and forth over the elixir with some Donizetti style patter singing. Nemorino promises the Doctor that no one will know he sold him the elixir.
Now that you have a solid set up for the rest of the store I’m actually going to leave you hanging with the plot line. I’ll give you a hint: It works out in the end. My intentions aren’t to give you a basic synopsis of the opera. Wikipedia has been doing a good job of that for 10 years. Also, you’re going to be watching it so I don’t need to share with you every little detail. You get to experience that for yourself! I want to share with you why I love this opera and some insight to what you can get out of it and expect besides the plot line.
Let’s dig into the characters.
Adina-I love this character. I find her quite complex for a character in a comedic opera. Take her off the stage and she’s still a real person. I’ve seen her be manipulative, genuine, cleaver, conflicted but above all without a doubt she is CONFIDENT. She has to be. After all, she is a wealthy landowner that the rest of the village depends on. She is responsible for a lot of people; her friends. However, she is still quite young. Where are her parents? Was there a tragedy in her life? We don’t know but all the more reason to show Adina as a multi-dimensional character. Though she is on stage the majority of the time, Adina does not have a true aria. The closest she gets is at the end of the opera just before all is resolve during ‘Prendi, per me sei libero (Take it, I have freed you)’.
Nemorino on the other hand may not be as multidimensional as Adina but he has his moments! Identified as the village ‘moron’ we mostly see him bumbling around like a fool but then he offers us ‘Una furtiva lagrima (a furtive tear)’. Revealing a depth of the character we’ve been waiting for all opera we see him grow from constantly let down by Adina’s rejection to showing a glimmer of hope. Despite the melancholy undertones of the piece, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ is actually hopeful and uplifting but not ridiculous or comedic like the majority of the opera.
Belcore, well what you see is what you get. From the moment he arrives on scene to the end of the opera he is an arrogant sergeant who doesn’t back down. Well, that is until Adina turns him down. But don’t worry, with a stage full of chorus girls he has no problem redirecting his attentions.
As I mentioned, this opera hails from the Bel Canto period. Bel Canto meaning “Beautiful singing”. Composers of this era focused on showing off the voice which is why at first listen you may feel slightly overwhelmed with LOTS OF NOTES. However, I think you’ll find this is not only a display of vocal athleticism but also a wonderful display of character. The intention of the text is brought to life and to be simply honest it is AMAZING what the human voice can do!