Donizetti's comedy is an enjoyable, lighthearted tonic between romantic tragedies
Finally, a happy ending! Of the four operas in the 2020 Winter “Season of Love” of the Sarasota Opera, only one has a happy ending: Donizetti’s comic opera “L’elisir d’amore,” (The Elixir of Love). This love potion of an opera breezed into the Opera House on Feb. 22 like a breath of fresh air and much-needed comic relief.
Based on the time-honored story of a country bumpkin who buys a bogus love potion from a traveling charlatan in order to win the love of a lovely lady who wants to marry someone else — but all ends well — this opera is no placebo; it is the real thing.
With Sarasota native Adelaide Boedecker as Adina, the rich young widow who is ultimately won by our no-longer-a-bumpkin hero, the opera took a few moments to get off the ground on opening night. But once Sergeant Belcore, the preening peacock of a suitor came on stage, with more than a bit of schtick, the evening lifted off and never looked back. His rich baritone inhabited the role and it is no wonder that Adina found him attractive, in spite of his narcissism.
Geoffrey Agpalo was indeed a bumbling bumpkin — perhaps a bit overdone at times, but he sang with a beautiful, well-placed tenor. His big aria, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” was delivered to perfection and almost stopped the show.
Stefano de Peppo, a seasoned basso buffo, gave a stellar performance as Ducalmara, the purveyor of potent potions that could cure most any malady, known or unknown — and devise a love potion at the drop of a coin. He sings well, is completely in character, and a pleasure to behold.
Adelaide Boedecker has virtually grown up with the Sarasota Opera. She is a graduate of the children’s chorus, youth opera, and both apprentice and studio
artist programs. Her one appearance as Pamina in last season’s “Magic Flute” showed how her talent and voice have grown, and in her portrayal of Adina, we all were witness to the bountiful fruit of her labors. Boedecker has a bright, clear voice, with a bit of an edge, especially when pressed on top, but her vocal technique and acting ability make her an ideal soubrette.
She charmed everyone on stage, especially our hero, Nemorino, who even enlisted in the army to use his signing bonus to get more of the “magical elixir,” which as it turned out wasn’t needed after all.
Studio artist Elizabeth Novella was enchanting and delightful as the peasant girl Gianetta.
All of these artists were under the direction of Marco Nisticō, making his stage directing debut as he continues to sing leading baritone roles. While some of the stage movement and groupings could use more variety, he does show a singer’s talent for knowing what works and what doesn’t as a performer on the stage. Time will no doubt contribute both accuracy and variety.
John F. Spencer IV conducted in his second appearance with the Sarasota Opera. I felt his conducting lacked sufficient drama in his recent “Carmen,” and also found him lacking a bit of humor needed for this light comedy. Donizetti was obviously familiar with the spontaneous champagne bubbles in Rossini’s comic operas. “Elixir” also has some bubbles just waiting to surface and sparkle. Almost, but not quite. I’m sure they will appear in subsequent performances, since any opening night is bound to produce a bumpy place or two.
The beautifully painted sets were from the 2003 production, designed and realized by Roger Hanna, and were strikingly lit by lighting designer Ken Yunker.
Howard Tsvi Kaplan again chose and created authentic costumes of the Basque country, and Brittany V.A. Rappise designed hair and makeup.
Chorus master Jesse Martins prepared a chorus that gave forth a well-balanced and full-bodied sound. Tania Vergara was choreographer for the brief folk dance scenes.
All in all, it was a most successful opening for “Elixir of Love,” and its cheerful light mood is most welcome change in this opera season of tragic loves gone awry.