As promised, today we’ll take a closer look at L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. It is an opera bouffe, or classic opera known for elements of comedy, satire, parody and farce. According to Opera America it is one of the top 20 most-often performed operas in North America.
And why not? Isn’t the premise a winning one? A peasant falls for a woman who is out of his league and buys a love potion with all the money he has (think magic beans) so that she will fall for him. He buys the potion, which is really cheap wine, and drinks all of it, believing he has just ingested the elixir of love. When he sees Adina weeping, he knows that she has fallen in love with him and that the elixir works.
The opera contains the popular, “Una furtiva lagrima” (A furtive tear), which is one of the most famous and often-excerpted arias in all of opera and has been sung by the likes of Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and every other tenor of consequence in the opera firmament.
You might enjoy watching Rolando Villazón, a Mexican-born tenor and one of the top young guns in the present day international opera circuit, singing “Una furtiva lagrima.” I love how expressive his face–his eyebrows are when he sings and that he conveys the emotion of the song through his whole body. No stone statue singing, not for Villazón. Also, the scenery is picturesque. The opera is sometimes updated, for instance, San Francisco Opera recast the show in the Napa Valley, circa 1915. Sometimes a traditional approach, as was used in Vienna production featured below, is quite winning. And holy smokes, what an ovation he gets! So glad it’s included in the clip. It makes you feel like you are there.