Opéra National de Paris 2018–19 Review: L’Elisir d’Amore
Vittorio Grigolo and Lisette Oropesa brewed this potion even betterBy Polina Lyapustina
It’s a well-known fact, that Donizetti wrote his comic gem “L’Elisir d’Amore” in haste during a six-week period. Yet, his work exceeded all expectations, becoming the most often performed opera in Italy for next 15 years.
One hundred and eighty five years later we have way higher expectations for this masterpiece, which can be a rather high bar to reach with more revivals. It has been performed so often, that we often feel that we have seen everything that can be offered and most performances come off as solid, though never truly spectacular.
Laurent Pelly’s acclaimed production of Donizetti’s opera is one such exception, showcasing the classic work in a rather refreshing take at the Paris Opera.
A Girl & A Boy
Lisette Oropesa made her role debut as Adina with a great success. Even if “L’Elisir d’Amore” seemed to work better in a more traditional take, Adina’s character benefited greatly from a modern context. She seemed more real as a lovely, kind, but a bit fickle girl with hopes and dreams than just a proud and responsible landowner.
Oropesa started “Della crudele Isotta” in a quiet and gentle manner, but later showed off her powerful voice. There was tremendous confidence throughout as she jumped in the hay despite having been injured during rehearsals. This alone kept audiences on their toes.
Her “Prendi, per me sei libero” in Act two was just splendid. This aria has a high tessitura and Oropesa matched it beautifully with lovely coloratura.
This great Adina definitely deserved a comparable Nemorino, and she got even more.
From the very first note of “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara” we knew that Vittorio Grigolo was way too good to be a true Nemorino. He was romantic and heroic. Perhaps too heroic. His voice has this passionate dramatic timbre, dark-grained and plaintive.
But no one could say he was even a bit unconvincing. Grigolo did his best to justify his truly big voice with comic effects and amazing acting. Right now it seems that he play any character with ease. Moreover, there was tremendous versatility in his interpretation. He could be distracted, confident and silly with light middle range sound. He could also be desperate with amazingly dark, but plaintive voice. He went from a fine and sensitive tone in “Una Furtiva Lagrima” to reaching a climax with a hurricane-like power.
He shone in duets with his beloved Adina, both Oropesa and Grigolo displaying tremendous chemistry onstage. They were incredibly funny and Adina, parodying and mimicking Nemorino as he became increasingly drunk on the “Elixir” was pure comedy gold. Those duets got great admiration from the audience throughout the performance.
Gabriele Viviani gave a splendid rendition as Dulcamara, acting with confidence, though he took some time to warm up his voice. By the time he got to the end of Act two, his voice was bold and robust. One wishes that his whole performance had featured such sturdy singing.
Étienne Dupuis was a charismatic Belcore, but he seemed rather small vocally, his volume rather dim. His acting was grotesque in a perfect way and it was a great idea to cut down his regiment to just two people. It was no surprise then, that Nemorino could take down a commander of two people.
Young Guatemalan soprano Adriana Gonzalez was a strong Giannetta, her voice ringing with strength and flexibility.
Life, Light, Love
Maestro Giacomo Sagripanti gave us a light and lively interpretation from the orchestra pit. His conducting style is very flexible and he definitely had a clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of every cast member. He never put them in adverse circumstance, ensuring that each artist managed his or her way through their major vocal passages.
Over time “L’Elisir d’Amore” has become a must sing for every great voice, but the familiarity of the work has undeniably bred some contempt toward its marvels from an artistic point of view. Moreover, it isn’t common for a top director to get an opportunity to execute his or her vision of his work with such star wattage as the likes of Oropesa and Grigolo. But this is exactly what the Paris production had.
There was great singing, acting, love, humor, simplicity and a dog. Something to delight everyone.
We could use more nights like the one in Paris. Simply delightful.