Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In quest'occhi è l' elisir

Kwicien, Damrau, Florez. Photo (c) Sara Krulwich/NY Times
A vocally superb and theatrically accomplished cast makes the Met's current run of L'Elisir d'Amore a joyful romp from start to finish. The orchestra played with verve under Donato Renzetti; there seemed to be some slight coordination issues, but the dramatic shape of scenes was well maintained. John Copley's 1991 production is a deliberately old-fashioned fantasia, a sleepy village watercolored onto flats, filled with pastel shepherdesses and a regiment as bright and self-important as freshly painted tin soldiers. The pastoral idyll is eventually crowned with an unapologetic explosion of pink clouds and putti. Thanks to luxurious singing, the humanity of Donizetti's comedy shone through.

The superlative quality of the ensemble extended to the vivacious Giannetta of Layla Claire. Claire sang with impressive agility and purity tone. Her distinctive timbre made her stand out in the initial ensembles, and her scene with Nemorino and the village maidens was handled adroitly. Claire was also a vivid presence when not singing: in this production, Giannetta is Adina's confidante, and her flirting with Belcore ends with her taking the initiative (and Nemorino's cast-off military jacket) and attaching herself to him. Alessandro Corbelli was an overtly theatrical Dulcamara. He sounded slightly dry in his opening aria, but used text with extravagant expressiveness throughout, and his duets with Nemorino and Damrau--including a hilariously mannered impersonation of Senator Tredenti--were delightful.

Diana Damrau I really must lavish with superlatives. Her singing was secure and sweet-toned throughout, and she managed to make Adina hilarious without ever making her the butt of a joke. Good chemistry with Florez helped make the development of her joyous, sensual Adina credible. "Chiedi all'aura" was beautifully precise and delicately phrased. The finale of Act I was a beautiful example of ensemble work, her duet with Dulcamara hilarious. Her exquisite "Prendi, per me sei libero" made use of entirely new vocal color, and ached with tenderness. When Adina finally spits out her confession of love, its repetitions were delivered by Damrau as increasingly ecstatic explosions of joy (and her dazzling coloratura made the promises of eternal love seem rather racy.) Juan Diego Florez was both charming, and unafraid to be ridiculous. His voice is lighter and leaner than usual for Nemorino, but I found his close attention to text and fine shaping of long melodic lines very winsome. Throughout, his Nemorino was disarmingly unguarded: "Quanto è bella" was besotted, "Caro elisir" dreamily delighted. "Una furtiva lagrima" was unusually slow, and poignant, the expressed hope a forlorn one. This melancholy, of course, cannot last long; the triumphant delight of the lovers is made general, celebrated by villagers and audience alike.

Curtain call photos:
Kwiecien (Belcore)

Corbelli (Dulcamara)

Damrau (Adina) 
Florez (Nemorino)

Cast and conductor


  1. I have yet to see an opera with Florez where he IS afraid to be ridiculous. The man has a flair for comedy that only Damrau really matches (although Natalie Dessay comes close). I'll probably buy the "Comte Ory" dvd. I wish we had this cast for the HD broadcast next season.

    1. Fair point; we are, after all, talking about a man who has taken a signature role around the world wearing lederhosen. I'd broaden the circle of brilliant operatic comedians, but Florez and Damrau are undeniably distinguished in that regard. I'm quite eager to hear next year's cast as well, though.


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