|Lomeli and Nistico; photo (c) Carol Rosegg|
Let me say at the outset that I like L'Elisir, and think that it's sweet and can even be profound, as well as being incontrovertibly funny. And there were not-insignificant aspects where I felt that the City Opera's current production fell short of realizing this, but with a fundamentally good-natured Dulcamara, a Belcore who didn't take himself too seriously, an Adina who can trill journeying credibly towards self-awareness, and a perfectly adorable Nemorino, there was enough to keep me happy. Let me get all my complaining about Jonathan Miller out of the way first, though. Although the production is sleek enough, I didn't feel it was insightful. I had hoped for possible poignant emphasis of social difference... but I didn't get much of that. The surtitles were updated to 1950s America along with the rest of it, and as a gentleman in front of me observed, aside from the scudi ("bucks",) there aren't significant obstacles to this. But I didn't think the production did anything (well, it did slapstick comedy, against which I admit a bias.) The Personenregie (credit to stage director A. Scott Parry) was nice when it wasn't slapstick; and the singers were creditably game in it all.
The orchestra, under Brad Cohen, played as well as I've heard them do, with full, rich sound and bright energy. There were stage-pit synchronization issues, though. Dulcamara's opening aria suffered, and it did not suffer alone. And the charming Adina-Nemorino-Belcore trio in Act I seemed to be taken at the speed of a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song. Slow down, Brad Cohen, slow down! I should compliment the singers on their Italian diction, though; I avoided the surtitles for the most part, and didn't miss them. Meredith Lustig created Giannetta as the town flirt, with a confident soprano and pert stage presence, managing the phrasing and the comedy of the gossip scene nicely. The Belcore of José Adán Pérez sounded a little dry, especially at the beginning, and was occasionally in danger of being drowned. However, he settled in nicely, and lent excellent diction to a Belcore full of swagger and charisma, and even a bit of self-mockery which kept my Patriarchy Rage from spoiling my enjoyment of the bel canto. Dulcamara inspired more trust than he should have, perhaps; I found myself actually liking the character! Baritone Marco Nisticò, from Naples, gave an assured and enjoyable performance, navigating his music stylishly. His comic timing was spot-on, but his Dulcamara also seemed compassionately aware of the real human importance of the gullible villagers' desires.
Stefania Dovhan presented a dramatically consistent and credible Adina, which is, in my mind, no small feat. She sounded less than comfortable with the lower end of the role's tessitura, but demonstrated vocal agility, and a very nice trill. I wasn't really drawn in, but this might be my problem. Possibly it's just a personal bias against a somewhat sharp-edged soprano timbre. I'll welcome the opportunity to hear her in upcoming seasons, though. It's not fair to say that tenor David Lomeli stole the show, but for me he made the show. (His website appears to be a work in progress, but he is on Twitter.) I liked his Nemorino, and felt sorry for him (he nearly knocked over the motorcycle he was examining, and then got tangled in a bead curtain... I always do that with bead curtains) before he opened his mouth. And then he opened his mouth, and I knew I was in for a treat. He offered sweet, sincere, and sweet-toned singing throughout, so it almost seems unfair to pick out the 'highlights,' but I really must say that "Quanto e bella" was absolutely delightful. Just before "Una furtiva lagrima," a lady two rows back whispered "this is the famous bit," but after that, the house was hushed and reverent. Lomeli also handled a great deal of (to me) silly stage business with grace, and Nemorino's nervous habit of fiddling with his grease cloth was very endearing. As the evening went on, the audience around me started smiling and chuckling whenever he appeared; the elderly man next to me, a discriminating applauder, grinned so hard he nearly disappeared into his wrinkles. I know Lomeli is still at the outset of his career, and that he has more developing to do. I hope to hear him do it.
|Bows: Perez, Dovhan, Cohen, Lomeli, Nistico, Lustig|