Donizetti - L'Elisir d'Amore / Eschwe, Netrebko, Villazon, Wiener Staatsoper
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Rolando Villazon, Anna Netrebko, and Leo Nucci star in this 2005 Vienna State Opera production directed by Otto Schenk, with Alfred Eschwe conducting.
Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore is one of the staples of the comic opera repertory. The plot hinges on whether earnest but dim-witted Nemorino will snag Adina, the flirtatious heroine. She's a tease who takes up with Belcore, an army sergeant, to make Nemorino jealous. After numerous (and humorous) plot twists that include a phony love potion, it all ends happily. Adina and Nemorino declare their love for each other, Belcore is dumped, and the fraudulent Dulcamara does a landslide business in love potions. It's all a fast-moving bundle of fun, especially with the star-filled cast of this 2005 Vienna State Opera performance.
The leads are magnificent. Rolando Villazón as Nemorino exhibits a real gift for comic acting, manipulating his rubber face into dozens of hilarious poses, flawlessly turning stock comic gestures into laugh-out-loud moments, and even juggling apples with the panache of a circus performer. More important, he uses his lyric tenor to sing the part with impressive subtlety, suggesting Nemorino's desperation while singing of his love for Adina. His big show-stopper, "Una furtuva lagrima," features melting pianissimos and a breathtaking decrescendo in its final phrase. It literally stops the show, the audience forcing a welcome encore. Netrebko's Adina is every bit as good, with deft acting and a lovely lyric soprano voice that makes you understand why she's the only girl for Nemorino. Dulcamara is Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, whose ample bass joins a stage presence that puts him at the center of his scenes. His famous duet, "Venti scudi," with Villazón, is the highlight it should be. Veteran baritone Leo Nucci is Sergeant Belcore and while his singing tends to the dry and effortful, he's convincingly sleazy, adding to the laughs. Smaller parts and the chorus are fine and conductor Alfred Eschwé efficiently keeps the music bubbling along.
Otto Schenk's production, with sets and costumes by Jürgen Rose, dates from 1980 but still looks fresh with a village square dominating the picture-postcard view of a provincial Italian village. The costumes are realistic, with predominantly pastel colors for the villagers, bright colors for Belcore and his soldiers, and relatively nondescript outfits for the others, though Netrebko can't help exuding glamour no matter what she wears. The video direction smoothly focuses on singers and the stage action, but the sound recording is overly resonant, with inconsistent dynamics and the chorus' words obscured. Still, this is the preferred L'Elisir d'Amore. --Dan Davis
- Cast gallery
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I like it, my toddler watches it repeatedly, and my high school students love this performance; it mesmerizes them and isn't so heavy like a Tosca or Turandot, yet still has an aria, "Una furtiva lacrima" - "A stealthy tear" (done beautifully) that inspires youth.
I can't understand why those who dislike Netrebko so much would buy this DVD. Is she perfect? No.
Does she have most of what makes a good performance? Yes; Netrebko can act, she can sing, she can dance. She's pretty, she's energetic, and has a joyful expression. She's not Callas, let's get on with it. If you're an opera snob then you know what you're in for when you purchase this DVD, it has Netrebko, yes. She's Russian so no, she wasn't weaned on a romance language. She's still enjoyable in many ways. She's called "La Bellissima" by fans, not "La sonorissima" or "La coloratissima."
All in all, very enjoyable even for a native speaker of Italian.
The story is a comedy about a penny poor young man in an Italian village who has a crush on on the town beauty. She's somewhat interested but would like to be supported in reasonable comfort. He comes to believe that a love potion from a travelling quack doctor will change her mind and spends his last penny.on a love potion from Dr.Dulcamara. From there it is still a long road to the altar. L'Elisir has been around for almost two hundred years and remains one of the most popular stage works worldwide. If you are looking for something different from Les Miz and a lot more upbeat. give it a try. My DVD had a slight problem with the sound. The voices came through fine, but the solo voices came through at a lower level than the chorus numbers. If I set the volume at a comfortable level for the solo singers, the choral singers were too loud. Check the reviews from other buyers. If they don't mention my problem, you might be ok. And, of course it might be my hearing.
wishes,an ingenious plot and a HAPPY ending. I've seen other versions, none so pleasant throughout as this. Rolando's juggling and his encore aria make it outstanding as I see it.
I liked it enough to buy 4 copies to give hopefully to friends who have not (yet) discovered the joy in opera.
Do assure yourself that it will feature subscripts.