San Francisco Opera ended their high-quality 2023 Fall Season on a excessive (and fabulous) notice with their energetic rendition of Gaetano Donizetti’s evergreen L’elisir d’amore set in ’50s Italian Riviera – evoking Federico Fellini‘s La Dolce Vita – and that includes a good-looking solid and one other spellbinding American debut!
Elisir – with a libretto by Felice Romani after Eugène Scribe‘s libretto for Daniel Auber‘s 1831 Le philtre – is certainly one of Donizetti’s most enduring operas and has been a staple in opera world since its Milan premiere in 1832, only a 12 months after its inspiration supply. It’s simple to see why; the opera is chock-full with melodic invention and marked by dramatic élan that delights the viewers. The recognition of Nemorino’s aria “Una furtiva lagrima” from Act II in recitals and live performance halls doesn’t damage both.
This manufacturing was entrusted to director Daniel Slater and affiliate director/choreographer Tim Claydon, utilizing units and costumes designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was initially created by Opera North (premiered there in 2000) and a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago (seen there two years in the past and reviewed right here).
On this staging, Adina was now a proprietor of the aptly-named Lodge Adina and Nemorino was a waiter there (apparently, office harassment wasn’t a difficulty in that resort!). Hopkins’s stage was primarily the resort terrace, the place the opera refrain got here and went because the visitors and employees of Lodge Adina. In one other homage to a different film, this time 1939 The Wizard of Oz, Dulcamara arrived and left in a sizzling air balloon in comparable method as The Wizard … highlighting the analogy that each males had been nothing greater than conmen!
Seen in that context, Slater and Claydon’s thought labored splendidly as they had been just about trustworthy to the libretto. Moreover, they infused a unprecedented variety of particulars into the manufacturing, notably within the actions of the massive refrain on stage. There was a way of functions for every scene, and it was very nicely choreographed. The manufacturing retained a lot of bodily hijinks required for comedian operas with out going overboard, and the solid and particularly the refrain members carried out them with aplomb and visual enjoyment. They even introduced three Vespas on stage and changed the offstage drumroll for Belcore’s arrival with prerecorded sound of racing Vespas! Simon Mills masterfully illuminated the stage to make the viewers felt like they had been transported to a café in Cinque Terre. The tip end result was really, to cite Henson Keys’s lovely abstract in his evaluation, “an exuberant, uplifting, and joyous Elisir” that offered an ideal escape to a metropolis laden with current layoffs and job cuts coming into Vacation season.
This run of Elisir at San Francisco Opera started on November 19th and was seen right here in the course of the run on November 29th. The November 29th efficiency was notably noteworthy because it was the evening of tenor Jonah Hoskins’s home debut to sing the position of Nemorino as a substitute of Pene Pati. (Pati himself was curiously within the viewers that evening.) Hoskins, who made the position debut in April this 12 months in one other one-night-only efficiency on the Metropolitan Opera, additionally set the data as the one member of Met Opera’s Lindemann Younger Artist Improvement Program in current historical past to sing the principal position on the Met stage and he’s scheduled to imagine the position in Santa Fe subsequent summer season.
That evening, Hoskins, whereas extremely musical and of the suitable temperament for Nemorino, started the present with a way of tentativeness (most likely brought on by nerves) and tended to get drowned out by the refrain and the orchestra. Fortunately, he was a lot improved for Act II, culminating in an expressive “Una furtiva lagrima” that introduced the home down. His shiny sound was pleasing to ears and his personification as lovesick pet was spot on; it could be attention-grabbing to take heed to him sooner or later as he positive factors extra confidence into the position!
San Francisco Opera appeared to have a knack of introducing new singers this season. Just like Judit Kutasi’s extraordinary debut in current Lohengrin, Slovakian soprano Slávka Zámecníková made a completely mesmerizing US and position debuts because the precocious Adina who receives a useful lesson in love. Wearing Hopkins’ gloriously colourful attires, Zámecníková seemed like one million bucks, as if she was an Italian socialite. Vocally, she was even higher; her shiny gleaming voice sounded spherical, pretty and expressive, and she or he effortlessly negotiated the numerous coloratura passages like a well-seasoned veteran. She imbued the position with a way of confidence and tenderness, and she or he established good rapport with everybody on stage. Hopefully, she is going to come again to Struggle Memorial stage as both Norina or Susanna, each of which she has carried out in Vienna!
Serbian baritone David Bižic accomplished the love triangle because the high-spirited Belcore, making a home debut. Slater meant Belcore on this manufacturing to be “somebody suave, refined, and assured … a real contender for Adina’s hand” and Bižic characterised his position with a level of playfulness; it was refreshing to see a Belcore that wasn’t extraordinarily imply to Nemorino for as soon as! There was some gruffness in his voice that wasn’t completely unsuitable for the position and like everybody else on stage he had enjoyable taking part in the boastful persona.
Hoskins wasn’t the one substitution on that evening’s efficiency; the initially scheduled Dulcamara, Renato Girolami, was sadly indisposed and, in a captivating flip of occasion, bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi was flown in from New York a day previous to take up the mantle. A veteran of the position, Carfizzi introduced class and wit to his Dulcamara, belying the truth that he was studying the half in lower than 24 hours (I couldn’t discover any data that he did this manufacturing earlier than) and making his character gravitate intently in the direction of, sure, The Nice Wizard of Oz! Present Adler Fellow Arianna Rodriguez rounded out the principals along with her winsome and amorous tackle Giannetta, Adina’s sidekick.
Debuting conductor Ramón Tebar led the Orchestra with a gentle hand, in a studying marked with pleasure and vigor. Tebar pushed the narrative ahead whereas ensuring the extra contemplative moments didn’t get misplaced alongside the best way. The San Francisco Opera Refrain, below the path of John Keene, had sounded fabulous just about all through the Fall Season and that evening they might have outdone themselves by combining fantastic singing with enjoyable appearing!
This was an ideal presentation to shut the wonderful Fall Season of San Francisco Opera. So should you’re round, earlier than catching The Nutcracker be sure to attempt to watch this as there are solely two performances left. Might all of you will have a blessed Vacation season. Merry Christmas and Pleased Holidays!
Images: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera