This review is for the performance on Saturday, January 20, 2018.
Audiences at the Metropolitan Opera were in for a treat this evening as they gathered for Donizetti’s heartfelt comedy “L’Elisir D’Amore.” Bartlett Sher’s production faithfully held to tradition while creating an authentic experience of a small, connected village where events big or small ripple outwards and leave nothing untouched. While Sher’s production attempts to create themes of the Risorgimento and give it a more serious touch, this evenings cast opted for more comical elements, which made the production all the more successful.
Supported by the energetic conducting of Domingo Hindoyan, the artists were well-prepared to wring out laughs and praise for what was to follow.
A Feisty Adina
In the role of Adina, Pretty Yende displayed great vocal agility, soaring and falling with an ease that spoke to the flighty, elusive nature of Adina. Throughout the first act, Yende proved herself able to keep the upper hand on her suitors as she, armed with a horsewhip, engaged in romantic sparring with Sergeant Belcore. As Nemorino feigned indifference towards her, she began to dance to his tune, full of flirtatious confrontation, until Belcore returned and gave her the means to throw Nemorino’s heart into disarray once more. In the second act, as her feelings changed, Yende mused over her situation with falling melismas that made audible her uncertainties. These apprehensions gave way when Doctor Dulcamara tried to sell her his popular elixir and Yende reassumed her seductive poise. This was overall an excellent performance by Yende, who made playing hard-to-get sound splendid from beginning to end.
The Heart Of The Opera
Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino effectively captured the essence of an unrequited lover, clumsily tailing Adina as he pined away, yet also able to hide his presence in some moments. As he jostled his way through the crowd gathered to hear Adina tell the story of “Tristan and Isolde,” his desire made him not above taking the seat of a child after giving a quick and comic push. The confidence he gained after drinking the supposed magic elixir was something to behold as Polenzani happily leaped from crate to crate in the market, waving about a rifle with the barrel often inches away from his hands and face all while singing with excitement and vocal flair. As the second act continued, Nemorino’s newfound wealth made him the sudden object of every woman’s affection, creating a delightful exit as he was chased into the night by a pack of bachelorettes headed up by the adorably-small Ashley Emerson as Gianetta. The humor of his departure was transformed into a richness of contemplation upon his return as the orchestra began the first measures of “Una furtiva lagrima.” Polenzani took the audience on an intoxicating journey, concluded by savoring the first syllable of “d’amore” to a length where his voice danced on the verge of breaking into a joyful cry.
As Sergeant Belcore, Davide Luciano carried much of the humor in the first act. After strutting onto the stage with an enormous hat and a larger ego, he immediately set to work on romancing Adina with his own brand of swaggering self-assurance and an imposing baritone to back it up. Singing with agile coloratura, his portrayal was more comic than gallant, it was still highly effective in putting Nemorino through hell. Through his trio with Yende and Polenzani, Luciano proved himself highly able to hold his own among these great voices, making for a fantastic and sharply-executed trio towards the end of the first act.
From his entrance, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Doctor Dulcamara charmed the village, and the audience, with his style and seeming-magic. As he pattered off about his knowledge and the powers of his potions with impeccable diction, he led the reaching crowd about with a bottle of simple Bordeaux. He showcased a sturdy bass that was unstoppable throughout the evening and his energy made him the center of attention in a number of scenes and by the fall of the curtain almost all, himself included, were under his spell.
All these factors made this night another success for the Met as the artists received a standing ovation. While it is no easy thing to straddle the line between comedy and emotional sincerity, the night’s performance did just that without neglecting one for the other. Though a standard in the Met’s repertoire, audiences will find much to enjoy thanks to the passionate work of its cast.