Opera Live in HD: Donizetti’s Comic Gem “The Elixer of Love” (L’Elisir d’Amore) Oct. 13

The new season of New York’s “Met Live in HD” series starts October 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm with popular star soprano Anna Netrebko taking center stage as Adina, the irresistible heroine of the first-ever comic opera. It opens the popular opera series, currently seen in the Berkshires at three locations. They are the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield and the Clark Art Museum in Williamston. It is also transmitted to more than 1,900 movie theaters in 63 countries around the world.

Matthew Polenzani (Alfredo in last season’s La Traviata) is Nemorino, the simple villager who wins Adina’s heart with the help of a mysterious “elixir of love” that bears a suspicious resemblance to French wine. The new production, by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific on Broadway, the Met’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Le Comte Ory), opened the Met’s 2012-13 season to critical acclaim. Charismatic baritone Mariusz Kwiecien sings Belcore, Nemorino’s swaggering rival, and Ambrogio Maestri is the potion-peddling traveling salesman Doctor Dulcamara. Italian conductor Maurizio Benini leads the performance, which features one of the most famous tenor arias in all of opera, “Una furtiva lagrima.” (Running time: approximately 185 minutes, including one intermission.

Although L’Elisir d’Amore is one of the most popular comic operas in the repertory, it has never before been performed on the Met’s opening night.

Anna Netrebko as Adina. Photo: Ken Howard.

This season’s performances will be Anna Netrebko’s Met role debut as Adina, though she sang a portion of the opera in a 2006 Met gala and has performed the role to acclaim at the Mariinsky Theatre, Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Netrebko opened the Met’s 2011-12 season with a celebrated performance in the fiery title role of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and returned in the spring as the title character in a new production of Massenet’s Manon. Her more than 100 Met performances also include Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and the title role in his Lucia di Lammermoor; Antonia and Stella in Sher’s production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann; Musetta and Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème; Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani; Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto; Donna Anna and Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni; and, for her Met debut in 2002, Natasha Rostova in Prokofiev’s War and Peace.

Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino. Photo: Ken Howard

Matthew Polenzani also makes his Met role debut in this season’s performances of L’Elisir d’Amore. In 2010, he sang Nemorino to Netrebko’s Adina at the Bavarian State Opera. He has sung more than 250 performances in 29 roles at the Met. In recent seasons, his starring roles have included Alfredo in the new production premiere of Verdi’s La Traviata (2010), Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. He has starred opposite Netrebko in Met performances of Don Giovanni, Don Pasquale, and Roméo et Juliette.

Mariusz Kwiecien made his Met role debut as Belcore last season in a revival of L’Elisir d’Amore. His more than 150 Met performances include four roles in new production premieres: the title character in Don Giovanni (2011), Escamillo in Carmen (2009), Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor (2007), and Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale (2006). He starred opposite Netrebko and Polenzani in a 2010 revival of Don Pasquale that was transmitted worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. Kwiecien made his Met debut as Kuligin in a 1999 revival of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová and has also appeared in a variety of other roles, most frequently Marcello in La Bohème, Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Guglielmo in Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte.

Ambrogio Maestri made his Met debut as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida in 2004 and returned in 2006 as Alfio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In recent years, the Italian bass has become one of the opera world’s leading stars in the basso buffo repertory, singing Dulcamara at the Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Munich Opera Festival, and Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the title character in Verdi’s Falstaff in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Vienna, Barcelona, Parma, Verona, and, last season, in a new production at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Last fall, he gave an acclaimed performance as Michonnet in the Opera Orchestra of New York’s concert presentation of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Later this season, he sings Dulcamara at Covent Garden and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona; Falstaff at La Scala and the Paris and Zurich Operas; and the title role in Verdi’s Nabucco at La Scala.

Erwin Schrott has recently sung Dulcamara at the Mariinsky Theatre; the Teatro Pezzurelli in Bari, Italy; and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain. Also this season, he sings Dulcamara at the Vienna State Opera and the Bavarian State Opera. At the Met, he has sung the title roles of Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro, Colline in La Bohème, and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen. This November, he will make his Met role debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni.

Benini made his Met debut leading L’Elisir d’Amore in 1998 and also directed a 2009 revival of the opera. This season at the Met, he leads the first-ever Met performances of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, which opens in a new production by David McVicar on New Year’s Eve, and a revival of Le Comte Ory. His previous Met performances include the Met premiere of Le Comte Ory and the new production premiere of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, both directed by Sher; the new production premiere of Don Pasquale; and performances of Verdi’s Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Luisa Miller, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Gounod’s Faust, and Bellini’s Norma.

The design team for L’Elisir d’Amore features two of the artists who designed Sher’s previous Met productions, scenic designer Michael Yeargan and costume designer Catherine Zuber, as well as acclaimed lighting designer Jennifer Tipton. Yeargan designed sets and costumes for the Met’s current productions of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and Floyd’s Susannah, and sets for Verdi’s Otello, Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, and Sher’s productions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Le Comte Ory. His 20 Broadway credits include two Tony Award-winning scenic designs, for South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza. Zuber, a five-time Tony Award winner for her work on Broadway, made her Met debut designing Il Barbiere di Siviglia and, in addition to Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Le Comte Ory, designed costumes for the Met premiere of Adams’s Doctor Atomic. Tipton, whose honors include two Tony Awards (for The Cherry Orchard and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway) and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, designed the lighting for the current Met stagings of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and Verdi’s Il Trovatore, as well as the upcoming Maria Stuarda.

This production of L’Elisir d’Amore was made possible by a generous gift from The Monteforte Foundation, in honor of Wim Kooyker. The Metropolitan Opera is grateful to Deutsche Bank for underwriting the Opening Night Gala for the twelfth consecutive year. Additional funding for the Opening Night Gala is provided by Manhattan Jaguar.

Ambrogio Maestri as Doctor Dulcamara in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Photos taken at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on September 15, 2012.

L’Elisir d’Amore – Synopsis

ACT I. Basque country, c. 1830. Adina, wealthy owner of a local farm, her friend Giannetta and a group of peasants are resting beneath a shade tree on her estate. At a distance Nemorino, a young villager, laments he has nothing to offer Adina but love. The peasants urge their mistress to read them a story — how Tristan won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion. No sooner has Adina done so than Sgt. Belcore swaggers in with his troop. The soldier’s conceit amuses her, but he is not dissuaded from asking her hand in marriage. Saying she will think it over, she orders refreshments for his comrades. When Adina and Nemorino are left alone, he awkwardly declares his love. She tells him his time would be better spent looking after his ailing uncle than mooning over her, for she is fickle as a breeze.

In the town piazza, villagers hail the traveling salesman Dr. Dulcamara, who proclaims the virtues of his patent medicine. Since it is inexpensive, the villagers buy eagerly. When they have gone, Nemorino asks Dulcamara if he sells the elixir of love described in Adina’s book. Pulling out a bottle of Bordeaux, the charlatan declares this is the very draught. Though it costs him his last cent, Nemorino buys the wine and hastily drinks it. Adina enters to find him tipsy; certain of winning her love, he pretends indifference. To punish him, Adina flirts with Belcore, who, informed that he must return to his garrison, persuades her to marry him at once. Horrified, Nemorino begs Adina to wait one more day, but she ignores him and invites the entire village to her wedding feast. Nemorino rushes away, moaning that he has been ruined by Dulcamara’s elixir.

ACT II. At a local tavern, the pre-wedding supper is in progress. Dulcamara, self-appointed master of ceremonies, sits with the bridal couple. Adina’s mind is distracted by the doctor, who suggests they blend their voices in a barcarole about a gondoliera and her wealthy suitor. When the duet ends, Adina goes off with Belcore to sign the marriage contract; the guests disperse. Remaining behind, Dulcamara is joined by Nemorino, who begs for another bottle of elixir; his pleas are rejected, because he has no money. Belcore returns, annoyed that Adina has postponed the wedding until nightfall; he spies Nemorino and asks why he is so sad. The youth explains his financial plight, whereupon the sergeant persuades him to join the army and receive a bonus awaiting all volunteers. Belcore leads the perplexed Nemorino off to sign him up, enabling him to buy more elixir.

Peasant girls, gathered in the square, hear from Giannetta that Nemorino’s uncle has died and willed him a fortune. When the youth reels in, giddy from a second bottle of wine, they besiege him with attention; unaware of his new wealth, he believes the elixir finally has taken effect. Adina and Dulcamara arrive in time to see him leave with a bevy of beauties, and she, angry that he has sold his freedom to Belcore, grows doubly furious. Hoping to sell Adina a bottle of elixir, Dulcamara claims that Nemorino’s popularity is due to the magic potion. Adina replies she will win him back through her own charms. Reentering alone in a pensive mood, Nemorino takes heart because of a tear he has seen on Adina’s cheek, but when she appears, he acts disinterested. She confesses she bought back his enlistment papers because she loves him.

Back in the piazza, Belcore marches in to find Adina affianced to Nemorino; declaring that thousands of women await him, he accepts the situation philosophically. Attributing Nemorino’s happiness and inheritance to the elixir, Dulcamara quickly sells more bottles before making his escape.

— courtesy of Opera News

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