Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore (Elixir of Love), acclaimed as one of the greatest comic gems in opera, opens the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD broadcasts for the 2012-2013 season Saturday at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge.
The story depicts an off-balance love triangle featuring the lead character, Adina, a resourceful but headstrong farm owner. Equal to her social status is the dashing, cocky Sergeant Belcore, who immediately captures her love. In the background, a poor, lovesick villager, Nemorino, pines for Adina but considers himself a nobody.
The setting is rural Italy in the early 19th century. The opening act takes place in a field of waving yellow wheat and flowing water, where the learned Adina takes her place beneath a symbolic tree to read to the villagers, reciting the legend of how Tristan won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion.
Soon thereafter, the quack Dr. Dulcamara enters the scene, pushing a cart with bottles of "elixir" - a brew he claims to be love potion. He sells a bottle to Nemorino, who envisions it as the way to capture Adina's love.
The part of Adina is sung by the charismatic soprano, Anna Netrebko, whose singing Anthony Tommasini describes as "feisty and earthy one moment, but poignant and shimmering the next, with gusty confidence in her acting and vocals."
The part of Nemorino is sung by American tenor Matthew Polenzani, whose vocal and acting performance Mike Silverman of the Associated Press calls "the triumph of the evening." Rounding out the cast, baritone Mariusz Kwiecien performs Belcore, who sings with "hearty sound and seductive lyricism" according to Tommasini. The Italian baritone, Ambrogio Maestri, sings Dulcamara, who Tommasini describes as a "portly, rumpled giant of a man, with a voice that is big, beefy and sung with sly phrasing and droll comic timing."
The love story, fickle as it may be, is offset by Donizetti's engrossing music, with its lilting choruses and captive arias, the most famous of which is Nemorino's well known "Una Furtiva Lagrima," sung in the second act. Energetic orchestral vibrancy is provided throughout.
"What I love about Elisir is that you have the best of the glorious Italian comic tradition, but with characters of great depth," said stage director Bartlett Sher. "It is filled with enormous inventiveness and beauty, while the sense of proportion is exactly right. It's a masterpiece."
Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore will be rebroadcast from the Metropolitan Opera at 10:55 a.m. in the Finkel Auditorium at CMC Breckenridge, 107 Denison Placer Rd.