ELIXIR OF LOVE
by Gaetano Donizetti
November 20, 23, 25, 27, 29th
at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre
by Ross Pink
A full house at the QET were treated to the colorful and energetic opening night performance of Vancouver Opera's Elixir of Love.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) composed this opera in 1832, and was first presented in Milan. The work falls into the tradition of opera buffa or comic opera, and is considered a classic. It is ironic that Donizetti, born to an impoverished family with no musical influence, became a prolific composer with fifty operas to his credit.
The story is about the wealthy and beautiful young woman, Adina, who is adored by the young peasant Nemorino who works on her family estate. The braggart and bully, Sargeant Belcore, arrives as the leader of a group of soldiers, and he sets out to win the love of the enchanting Adina. Discontentd of his low status, Nemorino borrows a love potion from a visiting doctor in the hope that this would change Adina's affections toward him.
Though Adina is set to marry Belcore, and rightly so, she keeps delaying the ceremony. When Nemorino inherits a large sum of money upon the death of his uncle, he becomes suddenly a man of means and soon wins the hand of Adina.
This last turn of events seems to be a wry and honest commentary by Donizetti on the price of love.
The great Caruso first sang the role of Nemorino in 1901 and received such thunderous applause and reviews that he continued to sing the role until the end of his career. His rendition of Una Furtiva Lagrima,( One Furtive Tear), is considered a high point in operatic history.
The soprano, Jane Giering de Haan, (Adina) is a spirited performer. She has extensive experience in Europe and the United States.
But the standout of the evening was Jeff Mattsey (Sargent Belcore). He brings to life with full vigor and braggadocio the role of Sargent Belcore and is a powerful baritone with a rich melodious voice. Superb opera is not found in the voice alone but in the handling of the role as well. He is a prolific singer who has performed extensively in opera houses the world over including the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Mattsey has the ability to breathe such life into a role that one transcends the line between reality and fantasy thus fully absorbing the feeling and sense of the performance. Such is the magic of a great talent.
American tenor John Osborn performed the role of Nemorino. He is a gifted performer who won early acclaim at the age of twenty-one and has been a consistent and stellar performer with numerous opera companies from Vienna to Santiago. Of note is the fact that Osborn won the Placido Domingo prize.
The overall performance was wonderful and enjoyed at length by the sell-out crowd in attendance. Such an evening assures the place and prestige of the Vancouver Opera, one of the jewels of Vancouver's cultural canvas.