OPERA REVIEW: “L’elisir d’amore” @ Hubbard Hall [Berkshire on Stage]
Review 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) 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.
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 bird-like busybody characterization is adorable.