REVIEW: “L’elisir d’amore” at Hubbard Hall

by Roseann Cane

I can’t remember ever having so much fun at an opera. (Well, there was the time when an usher escorted me out of the Met for laughing, but I was a child, the opera was Aida, and the other audience members somehow didn’t share my sense of humor.)

Gaetano Donizetti, born into poverty in the Northern Italian city of Bergamo in 1797, became a leading composer of bel canto opera in the early nineteenth century. He wrote about70 operas in the course of his career, and many are, to this day, performed as standards of the international opera repertory. One of the most popular is L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love).

 First presented in 1832, L’elisir d’amore, an opera buffa (comic opera), tells the story of the unrequited love of a poor peasant, Nemorino, for a beautiful landowner, Adina. Though Nemorino repeatedly declares his love for Adina, she rebuffs him with a declaration that she’d rather have a series of lovers. The heartbroken Nemorino watches a pompous solder, Belcore, court Adina. In desperation, Nemorino seeks the help of Dulcamara, a charlatan traveling through town selling a cure-all. “Dr.” Dulcamara sells a potion which Nemorino is convinced will make him irresistible to Adina, and he eagerly drinks the elixir, which is actually cheap wine.

 The brilliance of Hubbard Hall’s production, in addition to a delightful and accomplished cast and a superb orchestra, is that their L’elisir d’amore is set in a 1950s nightclub, with audience members (who’ve purchased premium-priced tickets) are seated at cabaret tables, enjoying wine and charcuterie. But rest assured, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The rest of the audience is in on the action, too, as cast members move throughout the risers as well as the tables, singing and teasing patrons.

AmorePrincipals

Nemorino, who is here the club janitor, is played by tenor Christopher Lucier, who has a lush, panoramic voice, and plays his role with an irresistible comic naivete. Lindsay Ohse plays nightclub owner Adina as a fiery femme fatale with a stunning, sweeping soprano voice perfect for bel canto.As the sergeant Belcore, Patrick McNally is a chest-beating pompous womanizer with a rich, expressive baritone, and as Dulcamara, Andrew Adelsberger uses his elegant bass-baritone voice to hilarious effect. Rebecca Shorstein’s soprano is rich and radiant, and as Adina’s friend Giannetta, her birdlike busybody characterization is adorable.

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The rest of the cast, chorus girl/waitresses and supers, have strong and lovely voices, and it is a particular joy to see young singers elegantly integrated in the evening’s festivities. Kudos to Maureen Cossey, Kyra Fitzgerald, Lucy Fronhofer, Delaney Hill, Rose Hunsberger, Abby Maher, and Zian Taylor.

 Amanda Charlebois’s costumes are period-perfect, and I loved how her use of bright reds accentuated the lusty, vivid goings-on. Brittany Shemuga must have had quite a challenge designing the lighting for a show that encompassed an entire theater, and not only did she rise to it, her work brought another dimension to the action.

Conductor Maria Sensi Sellner, who also served as Artistic Advisor, is inspired and astonishingly versatile, and her orchestra was nothing short of sensational. As for Stage Director Andrew Nienaber, who in his program note eloquently describes his desire to bring the audience “up close,” I offer my heartfelt congratulations for the great gift he bestows upon the clearly charmed audience. I know that fellow opera lovers will thoroughly savor this unique production, and I strongly suspect that those to whom the opera world is uncharted territory will find Hubbard Hall’s L’elisir d’amore a welcome introduction.

The Hubbard Hall production of L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti – sung in Italian with English supertitles – runs August 11-20, 2017 at Hubbard Hall, 24 East Main Street in Cambridge, NY. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto, after Eugène Scribe’s libretto for Daniel Auber’s Le philtre (1831). Conductor andArtistic Advisor Maria Sensi Sellner, Stage Director Andrew Nienaber, Costume Designer Amanda Charlebois, Lighting DesignerBrittany Shemuga. CAST:  Lindsay Ohse as Adina, Christopher Lucier as Nemorino, Patrick McNally as Sgt. Belcore; Andrew Adelsberger as Dulcamara, Rebecca Shorstein as Gianetta. Chorus: Rose Hunsberger, Kyra Fitzgerald, Zian Taylor, Maureen Cossey, and Lucy Fronhofer. Supers: Delaney Hill and Abby Maher

Guests at our premium seating will not only be in the middle of the events unfolding, but will also enjoy nibbles and wine provided by the Roundhouse Café.

Premium Packages for the opera are available through our website or our box office at 518-677-2495 ext. 311. For $150, individuals can enjoy a premium seat, dinner or breakfast at Round House Bakery Cafe, and a room at Motel Cambridge ($250 for couples).  Tickets are $60 for Premium Seating with complementary charcuterie and wine, $45 for Riser Seating, $25 for Students and can be purchased online, through our Box Office at 518-677-2495, or at the door until we are sold out.

Performances
Friday, August 11 at 7pm Opening Night

Saturday, August 12 at 7pm

Wednesday, August 16 at 7pm

Friday, August 18 at 7pm

Sunday, August 20 at 2pm

Orchestra

*principle

Violin I

Melanie Dexter*

Francois Secordel

Alyson Slack

Violin II

Kaori Washiyama*

Harriet Welther

Viola

Jimmy Bergin*

Rick Rowley

Cello

Perri Morris*

Will Hayes

Meg Harwood (08/11-12)

Bass

Mowgli Giannitti

Mike Ward (08/12)

Flute/Piccolo

James Haertel

Oboe

Ryan Klein

Clarinet

Christine Barron

Bassoon

Gerry LaNoue

Horn

Patrice Malatestinic

Trumpet

Omar Williams

Percussion

Alex Atchely

Piano

Arthur Bosarge

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