'L'Elisir D'Amore' is one of Donizetti's very best, tuneful, funny and charming that is more depth to it under the surface. There is certainly much more to it than one of opera's most justifiably famous arias "Una Furtiva Lagrima".
Revived from Bartlett Sher's excellent production, seen at the Met in 2012 and was one of the better productions from that HD season, this to me was great fun and a lovely much needed remedy. It has also for me replaced 'Tosca' as the best so far of the 2017-18 HD season, where there has yet to be a misfire. Six years on and the production has not lost its sparkle and freshness, not feeling too much like the same old production with a different cast.
Visually it is very pretty to look at. The sets are almost like looking at seasonal paintings, all in soft brown and almost like a spring setting. The costumes are simple and quite rustic yet also very attractive. Even though there may not be much new or new ground broken, that still doesn't stop the production from being non-stop fun and charm. Could really tell that Sher cared for the opera and that he understood it, the rapport between Nemorino and Adina is delightful as is that of Nemorino and Dulcamara but also there is much more to the production than that. The idea to reveal the class difference between Nemorino and Adina was wonderful and done really nicely, while the characters are more than one-sided stereotypes.
Musically, it really flows and brings so much character and vitality to what is going on on stage. Domingo Hindoyan makes a strong house debut, this is a conducting job done with style and zest. The orchestral playing is equally marvellous, it has a lot of energy, yet for "Una Furtiva Lagrima", an aria misunderstood in meaning by many (it is easy to mistake it for a sad aria, it isn't) there are nuances also. The chorus are right up to the task, well-blended and strong vocals and acting that doesn't resort to posturing, static poses or mugging.
As for the principal performances, all four of them make a very positive impression. Matthew Polenzani continues to be a breath of fresh air as Nemorino. He has a beautiful and endearingly youthful purity of tone with soaring unstrained high notes and great style. Not to mention the melting honeyed phrasing in "Una Furtiva Lagrima". He has really grown as an actor, with the production giving him a lot to work with in characterisation and bringing out sides of the role that one doesn't always see. He is ardent and charming, but also hot-headed and easily frustrated, also at ease in the comedic elements.
Pretty Yende's Adina another promising house debut and cannot wait to see and hear more of her. Her voice is warm with depth and pure, while her handling of the Bel Canto style is deft. Her Adina is suitably elegant and spunky, with witty flirtatiousness developing into heart-melting ardour.
Indebrando D'Arcangelo sings warmly, with agility and showed no signs of being phased by the faster rhythms or the patter. His Dulcamara is very lively and very funny, making it clear that one is not sure whether to trust him or not judging by the equal amount of oil and charm he brings to the interpretation. Do prefer Ambrogio Maestri in the original production and wouldn't have said no to him coming back.
Davide Luciano blusters, commands and bullies most effectively as Belcore, and he sings "Come Paride Vezzoso" (the second most famous aria of 'L'Elisir D'Amore') beautifully.
Overall, sparkling, a revival that is every bit as good as the production it's revived from. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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