L’Elisir d’amore – melodramma giocoso in two Acts to a libretto by Felice Romani, after Scribe’s text for Auber’s Le philtre, in turn after Silvio Malaperta’s Il filtro [Sung in Italian with English supertitles by Cori Ellison]
Adina — Andriana Chuchman
Nemorino — Mario Chang
Belcore— Alexey Lavrov
Dulcamara – Musa Ngqungwana
Gianetta — Alexandra Razskazoff
Dulcamara’s Assistant – Griffin Corallo [acting/added role]
Palm Beach Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Fenlon Lamb – Director
Constantinos Kritikos – Scenery Designer
Johan Engels – Costume Designer
Connie Yun – Lighting Designer
Sue Schaefer – Hair & Make-up
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 25 February, 2022
Venue: Dreyfoos Concert Hall, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach Opera continues its sixtieth anniversary season with Donizetti’s ever-popular L’Elisir d’amore. In this delightful production, her sixth for the company, Fenlon Lamb has outdone herself, her direction enabling the outstanding cast to bring all the comedic nuances to life as well as making the gradual development of the romance between Adina and Nemorino both credible and touching. David Stern led the excellent orchestra and chorus in an effervescent rendition of Donizetti’s score. All the elements of this staging – attractive sets (from New Orleans Opera) and costumes (from Washington National Opera), along with effective lighting – aptly captured the milieu of a rustic Italian village.
Andriana Chuchman and Mario Chang are brilliant as Adina and Nemorino, roles they have each sung at the Metropolitan Opera (although not opposite one another). Beginning with his cavatina ‘Quanto e bella’, Chang makes Nemorino a lovable character, so that Adina’s pointed indifference to his advances, although humorously staged, still evokes our sympathy for the disappointed peasant. As the plot revolves around Nemorino, Chang is present much of the time, and makes the most of his opportunities, both dramatically and vocally, including a superb rendition of ‘Una furtiva lagrima’.
Chuchman is a stylish bel canto soprano, excelling equally in legato and coloratura passages. Her light-hearted and humorous cavatina, ‘Della crudele Isotta’, sets the plot in motion with the story of Isolde’s love potion, but her demeanor later becomes quite touching when she realizes her true affection for Nemorino and pleads with him (‘Prendi, per me sei libero’) to remain with her in the village instead of joining the army.
Alexey Lavrov’s portrayal of Belcore is both vocally powerful and a masterpiece of physical comedy. His swaggering entrance could qualify for a grant from Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’, and his presentation of flowers to Adina – which he compares to Paris’s awarding the golden apple to Aphrodite in his cavatina, ‘Como Paride vezzoso’ – is equally humorous, as is his bumbling, yet surprisingly successful, courtship of Adina. The choristers who form Belcore’s platoon also add to the fun, with one soldier doing push-ups with his sergeant’s boot planted firmly on his back! Fortunately, these comic turns do not overshadow Lavrov’s resonant baritone, particularly delightful in his duet with Chang, ‘Venti scudi’, in which Belcore extols military life and pays Nemorino a bounty to enlist in the army.Musa Ngqungwana exudes humor and bubbling energy as Dulcamara, beginning with the buffo patter aria, ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’ in which he introduces himself to the villagers and extolls the supposed benefits of his patent medicine. His infectious spirit wins over not only the village “rustics”, but the audience as well. Griffin Corallo excels in the silent but often acrobatic role of Dulcamara’s assistant. Alexandra Razskazoff portrays Gianetta with considerable charm and a lovely voice.