Music lovers found relief from these ailing economic times as the Michigan Opera Theater presented a fresh new look at Gaetano Donizetti’s “Elixir of Love.”
The new time twist drove this most engaging story from an Italian village in the 1800s to Napa Valley in the early 1900s. This tender love story set on a magnificent, heartwarming stage cried out with voices that “bailed out” the doldrums of these difficult times.
Unfortunately, these sweet voices were not loud enough, as both the Chrysler Foundation and General Motors Foundation were forced to cut all annual funding for the arts. For the first time in its history, MOT Director David Dichiera took action and cancelled its April production of “Pagliacci.”
Despite the news — in the tradition of “the show must go on”— the night’s production continued flawlessly with Donizetti’s clever two-act witty comic opera that opened MOT’s spring season Sunday through yesterday at the Detroit Opera House with ease. Donizetti was not a slave to detail. He wrote this timeless gem in two weeks, and gave opera lovers one of the most famous tenor arias “Una furtive lagrima”(“A Secret Tear”).
Act One opened in small town America. Adina (Ailyn Perez), the soulful diva soprano, appeared beautiful, rich, demanding and fickle. She was a man eater, yet her true-blue, breathless sweet vocal won praise from all in attendance. Poor tenor Farmer Nemorino (Stephen Costello) was hopelessly in love as he sang “Quanto e’bella” (“How Beautiful She Is”). And how talented he was, as Costello’s mesmerizing voice took hold of these tender arias. When Adina read from this story book of “Tristan and Isolde” about a love potion, the not so bright Nemorino wished he could get such an elixir, thus securing her love.
Nemorino’s anxiety provokes the powerful vocals of his rival, the arrogant Sergeant Belcore (Dalibor Jenis), a baritone with a great stage presence. The newly arrived, manly sergeant manages to cast his intentions on Nemorino’s love, Adina. Enter Dr. Dulcamara (Burak Bilgili), a fun-filled character, the traveling salesman/con man who offers up a love potion. Bilgili, as the good doctor, sang “Udite, udite, o rustic” (“Listen up, folks”) and captured the stage as he sold his tonics. The elixir sold to Nemorino was really a bottle of cheap wine, which he guzzles. The effect of Nemorino’s drunken indifference becomes so irritating to Adina, she agrees to marry the brash Sergeant Belcore.
In Act Two, the nervous bride, Adina, captures the attention of the town as she plays out the runaway bride. She hopes in secret Nemorino would appear and stop the nuptials. Nemorino complains to Dr. Dulcamara that his elixir is not working fast enough and so the good doctor finds the opportunity to swindle Nemorino out of more money. The desperate Nemorino enlists in the army to get the money for the elixir. Meanwhile the drunken Nemorino’s rich uncle dies. Naturally the girls begin to pay more attention to him … including Adina.
Adina brings back the enlistment papers from Sergeant Belcore, who takes the rejection well and then she throws herself into the arms of a grateful Nemorino. Dr. Dulcamara capitalizes on the situation and sells out his entire stock of cheap-wine elixirs to the townspeople and everyone seems to live happily ever after.
Overall the performance was uplifting and entertaining. An operatic feel-good experience.
The seasons will close with “Carmen” May 9 to 17. For ticket information call (313) 237-SING or go to www.MichiganOpera.org.