By Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Director: Sharon Thomas
Adina: Angela Gheorgiu
Nemorino: Massimo Giordano
Doctor Dulcamara: Dimone Alaimo
Sergeant Belcore: Franco Vassallo
My Met opera season started last October with Donizetti's gut-wrenching drama Lucia de Lammermoor, so it was only fitting that it would end yesterday afternoon with Donizetti's operatic comedy L'Elisir d'Amore. Moreover, after the three hours of Peter Grimes' philosophical, grim tale last weekend, a little bit of bel canto fun seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. A new opportunity to hear Angela Georghiu is always welcome, but did not quite make up for Rolando Villazon's much deplored absence. I wanted them both!
Although the plot is as light as a feather, it nevertheless kind of holds the road and features a delightful bunch of strong and colorful characters, who yesterday kept on churning out arias after arias with steady aplomb. Yes, it did drag a bit now and then, but there were also a few comically and musically inspired moments, and the whole production was attractive enough to keep everybody engaged, if not enthralled.
Angela Georghiu used her famed supple soprano voice for some exciting vocal acrobatics and was an undeniably lovely, occasionally infuriating, Adina. Massimo Giordano filled in adequately for Villazon, and turned Nemorino into a sweetly hapless but fiercely determined young lad. His Furtiva Lagrima was a truly touching realization that his dream had come true and almost too emotionally gripping a musing for such otherwise standard fare. It easily stopped the show at the first note and had everybody hold their breath before breaking into thunderous applause. Our day was made. Simone Alaimo brought some shameless and well-timed slapstick humor to his scene-stealing Dr. Dulcamara and Franco Vassallo's Belcore was an irresistibly strutting and swaggering sergeant. All things considered, Ms. Georghiu had a quite an impressive line-up of hot-blooded Italians to contend with here!
As always, the Met chorus proved excellent at being a lively but not overwhelming presence. The orchestra, on the other hand, at times drowned the singers in its unbridled enthusiasm, but also efficiently brought out the gorgeous melodic lines of the music under the baton of yet another Italian and bel canto expert, maestro Maurizio Benini.
If the weather was gray and cold outside, the set and costumes were a dazzling explosion of colors and kitsch. The rainbow hues of the paper-cut décor were brightly complemented by the vividness of the outfits, from the scarlet uniforms of the Nutcracker-reminiscent soldiers to the pretty array of more subtle tones in the villagers' clothing. The Barbie-style coach, complete with a revolving Cupid cut-out on top, was appropriately matching the doctor's elaborate look, anchored by a hot pink jacket. It was Candyland à l'italienne!
Donizetti's most consistently popular opera was a fun, if a bit over-saccharined, conclusion of a grand Met season. I shall return.