Vancouver Opera
L'Elisir d'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti

Dates and Venue January 21, 2018 at 2pm, January 25 & 27, 2018 at 7.30pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Conductor Jonathan Darlington Director Brenna Corner after James Robinson Set Designer Allen Moyer Costumer Designer Martin Pakledinaz Revival Costumer Designer Amanda Seymour Lighting Designer Harry Frehner Chorus Master Les Dala Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

Adina Ying Fang Nemorino Andrew Haji Dulcamara Stephen Hegedus Belcore Brett Polegato Giannetta Elaina Moreau

Sung in Italian with English & Mandarin SURTITLES TM

Reviewer John Jane

Gaetano Donizetti’s L'Elisir d'Amore comes to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for (regrettably) only three performances. This Vancouver Opera production shifts the setting from an Italian village in the early nineteenth century to rural Ontario roughly a hundred years later as WWI is breaking out.

The opera is written in bel canto style, with all the elements of a fine melodramma giocoso: humour, romance, chicanery, parody and poignancy. The story is essentially a romantic comedy where Nemorino, a village yokel, just happy selling ice cream from his truck, is thoroughly smitten by Adina, a charming and accomplished librarian. Unfortunately, she is way out of his league.

Nemorino’s success at wooing Adina is made even more unlikely when the pretentious Sergeant Belcore arrives in the town on an army recruitment campaign. Belcore immediately draws our hero’s ire by attempting to sweep Adina off her feet. She has little interest in the Sergeant’s braggadocio, but accepts his proposal just to tease the ice cream vendor.

Nemorino makes his passion for Adina known in the first scene of act one in his opening aria Quanto È Bella, Quanto È Cara (how beautiful she is, how sweet she is). When Dr. Dulcamara, a travelling snake-oil salesman roles into town, he sees an opportunity to shorten the odds by obtaining a love potion like the one he had heard about from Adina’s public reading of Tristan and Isolde. The nimble-witted Dulcamara never saw an easy mark he didn’t like taking advantage of and sold him a bottle of cheap wine with the advisory that it required 24 hours to take effect – by which time he expected to be long gone. In the naïve conviction that Dulcamara’s bogus elixir will work, he brushes aside Adina’s mockery with the overly optimistic and plaintive aria Esulti Pur La Barbara (let her laugh at me now).

Despite the opera being perceived as a good-natured romp with a lightweight premise, it truly features some of the best singing of the bel canto style one will ever hear. The sublime sweeping melodies will surely make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. With over two hours of music, mostly sung by the principals, the performers require agility – both vocal and physical.

Tenor Andrew Haji proved himself to have the agility and stamina for the role of Nemorino. His performance of the opera’s showpiece aria Una Furtiva Lagrima (one furtive tear) was incredibly poignant and charged with raw emotion.

Soprano Ying Fang is a sheer force of nature as the coquettish Adina. On stage for almost the entire show, she flaunted feminine charm with sublime voice control in coping with Donizetti’s demanding score. Not only did Belcore and Nemorino fall in love with her, but so did the audience. Her affecting second act arias: Quanto Amore! Ed Io Spietata (much love, and I was cruel) and Prendi, Per Me Sei Libero (take it, because of me you are free) were extremely moving.

Baritone Brett Polegato showed off his penchant for physical comedy as well as a fine lyrical voice in his reading of supercilious Sergeant. The role of the roguish Dulcamara might have been written for Stephen Hegedus. His satirical duet with Adina, Io Son Ricco e Tu Sei Bella (I’m rich and you are beautiful) was a comic highlight.

Both the chorus and orchestra were in fine form, while Maestro Jonathan Darlington made sure that Donizetti’s grandiose score was carried through with verve and precision.

Martin Pakledinaz’s sumptuous clothing and Allen Moyer’s set of the elegant gazebo and Nemorino’s magnificent ice cream truck were evocative of rural Ontario’s time and place.

This production of Gaetano Donizetti’s L'Elisir d'Amore offers something worthwhile for both the aficionado and the neophyte.

© 2018 John Jane