L’elisir d’amore, Opera by G. Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti composed L’elisir d’amore in a hurry, but one can hardly argue with the results. To this day, the work ranks among the best examples of opera buffa. Audiences and critics alike adore it, and it has been a staple in the international repertoire for nearly two centuries. The premiere took place at Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan on 12 May 1832. Ever since then, the beloved romanza ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ became a treasured part for any tenor. In 1901, it famously contributed to catapulting Enrico Caruso to international celebrity. This season, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Rome picks up the Donizetti classic.
The plot of L’elisir d’amore (Italian for ‘The Elixir of Love’) derives from another opera, Le philtre by Daniel Auber with a libretto by Eugène Scribe. Donizetti recruited Felice Romani to write the Italian libretto for his own opera, and the two worked hard to make the source text their own. L’elisir d’amore focuses on the unrequited love the poor peasant Nemorino harbours for the rich landowner Adina. While his feelings for her are running hot, she is defiant and unwilling to settle down with anyone, much less him. Just in time, Doctor Dulcamara, a snake oil salesman, comes into town, and he has just the solution for Nemorino’s dilemma: a love potion. Riding a wave of confidence, Nemorino renews his pursuit of Adina, who cleverly dismantles the scheme and decides to teach him a lesson by faking a romance with the cocky Sergeant Belcore. As multiple layers of deceit and pretence come to a head, will pure love overcome?
L’elisir d’amore makes for a timelessly enjoyable experience. Its Romanticist storyline, colourful characters, and infectious melodies have long cemented its reputation in the opera pantheon. Donizetti may have worked quickly, but there is not a hint of sloppiness of haste in his impeccable orchestration and creative vocal writing. Paired with many laughs and sincere emotions, this opera buffa delivers all the goods, as audiences at Teatro Costanzi in Rome will find out.