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08 Mar 2010
Love Triumphs in L’Elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago
In its current revival of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production showcases the strengths and foibles of humanity, while assuring the ultimate triumph of love.
The bright and festive staging featured, in its opening cast, Nicole Cabell and
Giuseppe Filianoti as the pair Adina and Nemorino, whom love finally unites.
The rival to Nemorino in his courtship of Adina, Sergeant Belcore, was sung by
baritone Gabriele Viviani. Whereas both suitors of Adina are making their debut
this season at Lyric Opera, the pivotal role of Doctor Dulcamara, who produces
the elixir allegedly causing love, was portrayed by familiar baritone
Alessandro Corbelli. The orchestra was conducted by Bruno Campanella.
In it performance of the overture the Lyric Opera Orchestra yielded a firm
balance of strings and woodwinds, with the oboe and flutes especially standing
out. Campanella led with tempos that allowed for motivic expression of
individual segments while maintaining an overall conception of the orchestral
flow. The first scene of the opera in this production is bathed in sunlight;
the Lyric Opera chorus in its opening number gives the impression of a
nineteenth-century village gathering. Nemorino threads his way through the
crowd of peasants and townspeople in order to snag a glimpse of his beloved
Adnia. She seems to be lost in her reading and, with book in hand, she ascends
to an elevated balcony and seeks out space for concentration. In his first solo
number, “Quanto è bella,” [“How beautiful!”] Nemorino
details his infatuation with ardent lyricism. Mr Filianoti truly gave such an
impression while lacing his verses with an admirable sense for legato.
In his appeals to gain access to Adina’s attentions Filianoti relied,
perhaps more than needed, on forte expression, a more even balance
showing itself once interaction with the other performers began. During the
following, parallel aria Adina reveals that the subject of her reading is the
story of “Tristan and Isolde” whose boundless love was engendered
by a potion. Here Ms. Cabell indicated Adina’s absorption in the tale of
the magical love by, at first, an understated approach with spare use of vocal
decoration. As Adina continues to muse and wishes that she knew more about the
potion, a troop of soldiers enters under the direction of Sergeant Belcore. In
his introductory aria he offers a token of admiration to Adina and sings of his
own love being tantamount to that of a Classical or mythological model of
amor. Mr. Viviani worked his way into this entrance so that his
elaborate decoration was securely applied to suggest an image of
self-importance by the close of his declaration. Adina does not commit herself
as a result of this paean, yet Nemorino feels that he could lose any chance to
win her love. By the point of the trio ending this scene all three principals
had achieved a vocal and dramatic characterization of their roles and
interacted well to express the hauteur of the Sergeant, the desperation of
Nemorino, and the coyness of Adina. The duet which follows this exchange
features the latter two characters in their first scene alone together. As
Adina attempts to dissuade Nemorino from further displays of devotion, he seems
willing to neglect even the fortunes of an ailing uncle. Filianoti sang
graceful arching lines in his description of the unstoppable flow of the river,
in order to describe the futility of trying to stay his emotions [“Chiedi
al rio perchè gemente dalla balza” (“Ask of the river why it parts
from its source and fountain”)]. Ms. Cabell’s voice seemed to bloom
here as she matched the touching bel canto decoration of her suitor,
even though her response to Nemorino essentially denied his entreaties.
In a shift suggesting the scene at the start of the opera numerous villagers
collect around the cart of Dr. Dulcamara, who enters from his travels with
great spectacle. Mr. Corbelli inhabits the role in all its facets convincingly.
From this point until the close of the act Dulcamara’s personality and
his influence have an effect on Nemorino’s hopes and behavior. At first
Dulcamara brags to the villagers of selling a panacea for any possible ill. Mr.
Corbelli handles the doctor’s rapid monologue with idiomatic ease, and he
infuses the words with believable posture. Once the townspeople leave, Nemorino
asks if a potion to induce love is also sold by the doctor. True to
expectations of Dulcmara, a potion akin to Isolde’s is produced: the
doctor sells Nemorino a bottle of wine and suggests that he allow a days’
time for the elixir to take effect. In the well-known duet including
“Obbligato!” [“Much obliged!”] both Filianoti and
Corbelli maintain and enhance their characterizations of a lovelorn youth and a
self-serving charlatan. Their challenging vocal lines were delivered crisply
and with sufficient independence so that each made a distinct impression while,
at the same time, being caught up audibly in the sense of a progressive duet.
Nemorino imbibes from the elixir as instructed and he becomes, of course,
emboldened in his sense of confidence. When he next sees Adina, Nemorino seems
disinterested and he declares that her emotional response will surely be
kindled before long. Ironically Belcore enters and presses his suit again. In
the trio which concludes Act I Adina agrees, at first, to give her consent to
Belcore by the following day. When reminded of the sergeant’s imminent
departure, she agrees to a marriage on this very day. Mindful of the
doctor’s prediction, Nemorino is now aghast that sufficient time will not
have elapsed for Adina’s love to be awakened by the potion. Accompanied
by increasingly rapid tempos, all three principals in this production sailed
toward the finale while communicating individual emotions as part of a larger
canvas in the ensemble. The well-rehearsed chorus contributed to the picture of
unexpected dilemmas at the close of the act.
At the start of Act II festivities for the wedding between Adina and Belcore
have been set up. While Belcore waits for the marriage document to be signed,
Adina regrets the absence of Nemorino. The crowd is entertained by a song
performed in duet by Dulcamara and Adina. At this pont Ms. Cabell and Mr.
Corbelli engaged in play-acting to suggest the amorous tone of the song, a
skillful maneuver which enhanced the tension of love as gradually depicted here
in its development. Once the notary arrives to seal the marriage, Adina finds
further reason to delay her agreement. She leaves Dulcamara alone at the
banquet until Nemorino appears to beg more of the elixir. Since he has no cash
to buy the potion, Nemorino sells his time to the army: Belcore gives him
twenty crowns in exchange for military service. In these two scenes Filianoti
showed a skillful application of vocal colors, first in his exchange with
Dulcamara followed by the pointed duet with the sergeant. Once the news that
Nemorino’s wealthy relative has passed away is communicated by the
village girl Giannetta, the youth returns under the influence of the elixir. In
the role of Giannetta, Angela Mannino gave full-voiced lyrical expression to a
memorable characterization. Now many of the women in the village vie for
Nemorino’s attentions, as Adina must rely on her own charms to settle the
emotional quandary. In their final solo numbers of the act both Filianoti and
Cabell demonstrated their skills at this repertoire. “Una furtiva
lagrima” [“A furtive tear”] was performed with great pathos,
a superior command of legato, and an effective use of
diminuendo toward the close. Ms. Cabell’s ultimate declaration
of her love was sung with appropriate and well-executed decoration as well as
carefully observed shifts in tempo during the course of the aria. The assembly
of well-wishers provided a happy ending as Dulcamara, initiator of the elixir,
departs upon having completed his task.
Click here for a photo gallery and other information regarding this production.