Donizetti: LElisir dAmore
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When Donizetti s comedy, updated to the mid-20th century by
the Uruguayan-born director Mario Gas, was mounted at Barcelona s
magnificent Liceu opera house in 2005, Opera News wrote that:
The absolute hit of the production was . . . Rolando Villazón, a commanding,
vulnerable and hilarious Nemorino. His stage presence dominated
every scene he was in . . . [and] his lovable innocence was a joy
to behold. Villazón s perfect technique and creamy, malleable voice
conquered the audience . . . His athletic and expressive body language
midway between Cantinflas and Mr. Bean fits this role and this
production perfectly. The Mexican tenor, making his debut at the
Liceu, was called upon the encore the opera s most famous aria,
the plaintive Una furtiva lagrima . Rolando Villazón can already be seen and heard as Nemorino on
another Virgin Classics DVD, released in 2006. His partners in
that more traditionally rustic production from Vienna were Anna
Netrebko, Leo Nucci and Ildebrando d Arcangelo; here they are
Spanish soprano Maria Bayo as the wealthy and capricious Adina,
Italian baritone Bruno Praticò as Dulcamara, the pedlar of the socalled
elixir of love in fact just red wine in disguise and
French baritone Jean-Luc Chaignaud as the swaggering sergeant
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On a more serious note: Mario Gas' brilliance was again in keeping the interpretation more in line that the story was NOT about Nemorio and Adina at all but that the REAL main characters were the Doctor and his patent medicine! It was always about the Medicine! Gas had a more serious dramatic viewpoint and Villazon was able to switch gears and respect that by delivering both an outstanding acting as well as singing performance. Mario Gas' interpretation was probably more in line with Donizetti's intended mood for the opera as a light (with and emphasis on "light") comedy. This meant that the character of Nemorino had to be just a normal young man asking that age old question as many young boys do: "How do I get the girls to like me?" He asks in the opening scene "how can I be loved?" The ladies of his village look at him as "the kid", more like a pesky kid brother than a suitable boyfriend or lover. He interprets that as there must be something wrong with me. When Nemorino looks to the Doctor for a potion he isn't really looking for "magic" as much as he is looking for medicine to change him, cure him, of what ever it is wrong with him that makes the girls ignore him, most of all Adina. After all, when you are looking for magic, you are looking to give your intended the potion to change them; when you are looking for a cure you are asking to change yourself. Secondly Gas gives Nemorino the backdrop of a village around 1920's in which Nemorino operates a newsstand and interacts more normally as one of the young kids around town. This gives the likeliness of a romance between Nemorino and Adina plausibility. The star was truly the Doctor (Bruno Practico) and his medicine. Gas brilliantly drives this home with the encore of "Ei correggi ogni difetto" during curtain call when Dulcamara (Practico) comes out walking down the aisle from the back of the audience singing this song and passing out sample bottles of his magic elixir to members of the audience and finally to the Conductor at the orchestra pit! The simple staging and scenery in the 1920's meant that there was no excessive props or fussy costumes in the chorus's to distract from who the characters were supposed to be, the village eligible ladies and widows. Every person in the chorus seemed to belong and was very much an active character that made up each scene when the chorus performed, giving weight to the set. The casting of Adina, Balcore, and Dulcamara were all age appropriate and costumed so they looked their part. In Schenk's version the casting of Leo Nucci as Balcore seemed wrong in that he looked way too old to be a rival suitor for Adina. Again, Schenk's supporting cast were caricatures to the intent that Nemorino and Adina be to the forefront of the performance. In Gas' version, Villazon generously shared the stage equally with all of the characters and the chorus through out the performance which is a sign of respect of a true professional. The audience showed their love for him by demanding an encore of "Una Furtiva Lagrima" in the 2nd Act and then showered him with a confetti of playbills from the balconies and boxes above the stage during the curtain call. The applause was prolonged and deafening! Well done Maestro(s)!
First, all of the principals and the chorus sing and act very well. Jean-Luc Chaignaud brings across the personality of a braggadocious, strutting sergeant, Belcore. His attitude is "Hey girls, here I am; don't miss the opportunity to be with me!" When Adina dumps him, he doesn't miss a beat as he moves on to other pretty ladies, starting with the very lovely Giannetta (Cristina Obregon).
Bruno Pratico is the lovable, rascal, Doctor Dulcmara, who can sell anything to anybody. He arrives on a motorcycle with a sidecar, consistent with the setting of a small Italian town of the 1920s or 1930s. Even as he deceives everyone, you'll find yourself enjoying him much as so many children have long delighted in the boastful "Mr. Toad" of WIND IN THE WILLOWS.
If you haven't heard Rolando Villazon, you've missed one of the greatest tenors since Caruso. To singing that rivals Pavarotti for technique, control, and quality, and Domingo for depth and passion, Rolando Villazon adds the dimension of superb stage acting. He's involved in the action at all times, and adds movements, shrugs, glances and gestures that make this a night to remember.
I'm certainly not alone in this, for the audience applause following "Una Furtiva Lagrima" simply would not subside until an encore was begun. The entire cast seemed aware that it was a performance to be remembered. Their interaction and involvement gave life even to the background roles, and let them shine.
If you can imagine a cast of superb singers with the best acting and great costumes and ideal staging--all performing with the joy and enthusiasm of kids in their first big musical--all of this on the stage of the second largest opera theater in Europe--I think you'll agree it was a night to remember.
Enjoy it with dear friends!
Most recent customer reviews
Would recommend it to anyone!
The biggest minus point here seems to be the recorded music.