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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Metropolitan Opera Preview: L'Elisir d'Amore

Flórez and Damrau get together over a bottle of wine.
by Paul Pelkonen.
Doctor Dulcamara opens for business in L'Elisir d'Amore.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2009 The Metropolitan Opera.
They've enthralled audiences (and critics) in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Fille du régiment and last season's Le comte Ory. Now, Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau face off once more as Nemorino and Adina in Donizetti's warm-hearted comedy. This is the last set of performances for John Copley's charming production, which will be replaced by a Bartlett Sher staging at the start of next season.

Donizetti wrote some wonderful music for this opera, the story of simple schnook who wins the girl of his dreams with help from a quack doctor and a bottle of wine. Elisir features comic arias, country peasant ensembles and a great "patter" role. But everyone knows this opera for the Act II showstopper "Una furtiva lagrima." This is the aria that Caruso and Pavarotti made famous, the one that makes people bellow "Maaaaa-maaaaa" when asked what they know about Italian opera.

This set of performances has a strong cast. Mr. Flórez and Ms. Damrau are joined by bari-hunk Mariusz Kwiecien in the role of Belcore, Nemorino's rifle-toting rival, and Alessandro Corbelli as the quack Doctor Dulcamara, whose cheap vino acts as the ultimate social lubricant.

Recording Recommendations:
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vittorio Gui (Glyndebourne, 1962, released 2010)
Nemorino: Luigi Alva
Adina: Mirella Freni
Belcore: Enzo Sordello
Doctor Dulcamara: Sesto Bruscantini
A revalation: this tape sat in the vault for almost half a century before being released in a 2 disc package last year. The young Freni is miraculous here, paired with bel canto specialist Luigi Alva. A thrilling live performance taped in the intimate conflicts of the Glyndebourne Festival.

English Chamber Orchestra cond. Richard Bonynge (Decca, 1972)
Nemorino: Luciano Pavarotti
Adina: Joan Sutherland
Belcore: Dominic Cossa
Doctor Dulcamara: Spiro Malas
This is one of the classic Decca recordings pairing the unbeatable combination of Sutherland and Pavarotti in bel canto repertory. Luciano injects his ineffable charm into the role of the lovestruck Nemorino. Sutherland's cool approach to the music suits the bookish Adina. With her husband conducting, La Stupenda takes a different cabaletta than the norm in Act II, singing one written for the great Maria Malibran.
Return to the Metropolitan Opera Season Preview!

Contact the author: E-mail Superconductor editor Paul Pelkonen.

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