Performed at The Egyptian Theatre
Sung in Italian
Music: Gaetano donizetti
Libretto: Felice Romani
Premiered: May 12, 1832, Teatro della Canobbiana, Milan
Adina • Soprano Cecilia Violetta López
Nemorino • Tenor Thomas Glenn
Belcore • Baritone Jason Detwiler
Giannetta • Soprano Jena Carpenter
Dr Dulcamara • Bass Baritone Christopher Job
Conductor • Andy Anderson
Director • Andrew Nienaber
About the production
This season’s production has been updated to the late 1940s or early 1950s. The Setting is Adina’s Nightclub at the end of the USO nightclub craze. This setting allows the drama of the opera to unfold both “onstage” and “offstage” as we watch big production numbers, as well as intimate moments, that happen backstage.
Adina is the proprietor of the nightclub and their star chanteuse. Nemorino is the janitor, smitten with his boss. Gianetta is the head waiter and leader of the club’s chorus. Dulcamara is a travelling snake-oil salesman who has come to town with his two assistants. And Belcore is an army officer on leave before his deployment (to Korea, presumably).
The production, originally staged for Resonance Works Pittsburgh, won the American Prize in Opera Performance in 2015. The letter accompanying the award read, “As much as I am not a fan of operatic ‘up-dating’, this production is brilliant from start to finish! The concept worked.”
Act I – Nemorino is a young man who has hopelessly fallen in love with his unattainable boss, Adina. As the chorus sings of the restorative power of love, Nemorino stares longingly at Adina. Engrossed in a book, Adina is oblivious.
Ever the outsider, Nemorino remains at the outskirts of the chorus, despairing of his love ever being requited: Adina is eloquent, well read, and wealthy, while Nemorino can only offer the world his stupidity.
The peasants ask Adina what her book is about, and she regales them with the story of how Tristan won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion. Nemorino is immediately enthralled with the idea as a way for his regard to be returned.
A drum roll announces the arrival of Sergeant Belcore. Belcore is the embodiment of everything that the hapless Nemorino is not: he is arrogant, powerful, and enormously confident. He promptly introduces himself to Adina and asks her to marry him. Adina declares that she is in no hurry to make up her mind, but promises to think the offer over.
Left alone with the love-sick Nemorino, Adina tells him that his time would be better spent in town, looking after his sick uncle and his inheritance, than hoping to win her love. She claims that no one can ever win her, because she takes a different lover every day. Nemorino declares in no uncertain terms that he cannot erase her name from his heart.
Dr. Dulcamara, a quack medicine man, arrives in the village with his noisy retinue advertising a potion capable of curing Rickets, Diabetes, Scrofula, Wrinkles, Weeping, Sleeping and every other ailment known to mankind. Once the doctor has finished his spiel, Nemorino surreptitiously asks if he sells the elixir of love described in Adina’s book. Dulcamara is glad to oblige and pulls out a bottle of cheap booze. Though it costs him his last dollar, Nemorino buys it and immediately downs the bottle. Dulcamara explains that he has to wait until the next day for results (by which time the good doctor will be long gone).
Adina enters only to find Nemorino feeling some of the effects of his “potion.” Certain he will be irresistible to her the next day, Nemorino attempts to play it cool. To punish him, Adina flirts with Belcore. When the order arrives for the sergeant to return the next morning to the front lines, Adina agrees to marry him at once out of spite. Shocked, Nemorino begs her to wait one more day, but she ignores him and invites everyone to her wedding. Nemorino desperately calls for the doctor’s help.
Act II – Dulcamara and Adina sing a Barcarolle to celebrate the upcoming marriage. A notary arrives, but Adina doesn’t want to sign the contract without being able to gloat over it to Nemorino. She asks Belcore to wait until the evening.
Nemorino, now with no money to offer, begs the doctor for another bottle of elixir to speed its effect. Dulcamara refuses, telling Nemorino he has 15 minutes to come up with money before the Doctor leaves town.
Belcore enters in a state of puzzlement that Adina has postponed the wedding. When his rival, Nemorino, tells him that he is strapped for money, Belcore signs him up for military service, which has a 20 dollar signing bonus.
Having bought great deal more of the elixir, a besotted Nemorino returns to find a group of girls who cannot stop flirting with him. Unaware of the news that his uncle has died and left him a fortune, he believes the elixir is finally taking effect. Adina enters, and is shocked and jealous to see the girls hanging off of Nemorino. Dulcamara boasts to Adina about the power of his elixir, offering to sell her some as well. She replies that her seductive powers are stronger than any medicine.
Nemorino feels sure that Adina now loves him. She returns to tell him that she has bought back his enlistment papers, and after much hesitation she confesses her love for him. Belcore discovers the two in a passionate embrace and takes the news in stride, declaring that there are thousands of women waiting for him. As the curtain falls, Dulcamara seizes the moment, and reveals to the crowd that Nemorino has suddenly become wealthy. Clearly, this proves that his miraculous potion can make anyone fall in love and turn poor nobodies into millionaires (and heal tumors, just for good measure).