Sing to spring
Elixir of Love
If you’ve seen the newspaper advertisements for Nevada Opera’s Elixir of Love, you might have gotten the impression that the opera is a steamy affair, inappropriate for families. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are no men with naked gleaming hairy chests or women in barely-there dresses and slicked-back hair. As far as operas for the whole family go, Elixir of Love is close to being on par with Mozart’s cheery and giddy The Magic Flute.
The opera is about love, about being twitterpated (you know, like Bambi) in the springtime. The events take place on a farm, and, like in the best spring romantic comedies, unrequited love is transformed into reciprocated love when something like a magic potion or the juice from a purple flower (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream) enters the mix.
“It’s spring, the weather is great, it’s a good time for comedy,” says Michael Borowitz, Nevada Opera’s artistic director. “It’s a story about love, a story about two people who shouldn’t be together and end up together anyway.”
The opera is in Italian and opens as Adina (Jane Redding) sits onstage reading the story of Tristan and Isolde, another opera about unanswered love and enchanted elixirs. A flower girl named Gianetta enters (Suzette Thoeni) and sings to a cheery staccato beat, like the sound of birds chirping. Then Nemorino (Matt Morgan) wanders onstage with intense longing as he stares at Adina. His face is exaggeratedly forlorn as he knows Adina is unaware of his love and that, foremost, his love for her is inappropriate. As Morgan sings a capella, his loud but tender voice fills the rehearsal warehouse space to spilling over.
“Adina runs, actually owns, a farm and has all these people around her,” Borowitz explains of the plot. “Nemorino is below her, but he falls for her anyway. When he confesses his love, she says she likes to take new men every day, and he should do what she does—love someone for a little while then move on.”
When a ship of soldiers arrives in town, Adina becomes smitten with Belcore (Dennis Jesse)—powerfully voiced and hilarious as he shows off his sword and puffs up his chest—and Nemorino decides to confess his love to Adina. When she laughs him off, it’s Nemorino’s good fortune to run into a doctor, aka traveling salesman and swindler (Brian Banion), who sells a potion (nothing more than cheap wine) to cure all ailments, especially unrequited love. Nemorino has never had alcohol, so when he starts to get drunk and lose his inhibitions, he believes the elixir is working. When intoxicated, he’s not as interested in Adina, which, of course, makes her more fascinated by him, and the tables turn.
Good opera, which is as simple as good acting and great voices, tends to penetrate the flesh and reverberate through the veins and, eventually, through the heart. If a rehearsal performance of the comedic Elixir of Love can bring chills to an astute reporter, imagine what the real performances will do for unsuspecting audiences.