The booklet presents three performing casts of singers – each more beautiful than the other. On my day, Dulcamara was sung by Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott, while Adina was sung by the amazing American soprano Brenda Rai, the eye-opening gem of the evening, as, indeed, was the Argentine tenor Juan Francisco Gatell singing Nemorino (who was sung by a Mexican singer Javier Camarena in another cast).
In a cheerful production by Damiano Michieletto (whose «Journey to Reims» currently plays here in the Bolshoi), the story unfolds not on a farm (like in the original libretto), but on the beach. The stage designer Paolo Fantin created a pretty recognizable modern resort landscape with sunbeds, umbrellas and a bar «Adina». During the overture, an elderly couple enjoys solitude there: He listens to the radio, she adorably tries to do some gymnastic exercises. Could it be Adina and Nemorino forty years later?.. But the beach is rapidly filled with vacationers, and the couple quickly flies away from the vanity of human bodies.
A young janitor – Nemorino – secretly admires Adina, the owner of this place, who is reading a fashion magazine with the story of Tristan and Isolde placed in the section of the society chronicle. Adina is a local heart snatcher, as all men hurry to please her, share sunscreen and make a selfie. Branda Rae sparkly plays a confident vamp-woman and wastes no time putting Captain Belcore in his place. Instead of portraying a hard-nosed veteran, the Italian Alessandro Luongo appears as a «devilishly handsome” officer dressed in a bright white jacket.
Alessandro Luongo as Belcore and Branda Rae as Adina
In comparison to him Nemorino looks like such a small man evoking a spirit of Charlie Chaplin’s goofy, pushed around, yet touching heroes. He childishly tries to express his adoration for Adina by gifting her a teddy bear which the beauty ruthlessly throws in the trash – she would like to have jewelry, not toys. Erwin Schrott – Dr. Dulcamara – is a typical promoter. He arrives in a jeep accompanied by escort-like girls and demonstrates by his manners that he is not a cheap charlatan selling an obviously fake potion (which is not a love potion, but «Bordeaux»), but rather a virtuoso who made deception an art. He does not make funny faces, instead organically uncovering his character of a confident crowd favourite, «a holiday man», inspiring others with the idea of his limitless capabilities. In addition to the spectacular appearance and acting charm, Schrott sounds great both when fast talking and doing lyrical scenes, thus demonstrating a confident mastery of Italian Opera Buffa techniques.
Erwin Schrott as Dulcamara
Nemorino, who Dulcamara views as local fool, grasps at his wonderful elixir as if it was a safe vest. He believes that a day later Adina loves him so passionately; how tremendously shocked he becomes after hearing that his beloved has decided immediately to marry Belcore. The idea that the elixir doesn’t have enough time to affect her plunges our hero into shock and leads him to the brink of madness. Juan Francisco Gatell, the owner of a pleasant lyrical tenor, is equally stable in the upper notes and diverse in nuances. He reflected all psychological mood changes very well and reliably. The director chose not to focus on gags, instead showing tragicomedy, when real human emotions – despair, jealousy, hurt ego, love – break through laughter and comical situations. The sudden inheritance, which makes Nemorino not only rich, but also utterly attractive to local ladies, is obviously given to him as the retaliation for all those times Belcore humiliated and beat him, threw garbage on his head…
What about Adina? Her archetype is a typical «dog in the manger». As soon as she sees that Nemorino has become women’s favorite and is bathed in adoration (literally, since in the second act the forefront is occupied by an inflatable three-tiered wedding cake, the base of which is a pool), she wants to immediately return the lost admirer. Brenda Rae seduces not only Nemorino, but also the whole audience in her aria – they were holding their breath listening to her intimate piano.
Gianluca Capuano, a connoisseur of this music, was at the conductor’s pult of Teatro Real’s orchestra. A Milan organist, a choir and symphonic conductor, he is a versatile and interesting musician. Moscow public may recall his concert with Ann Hallenberg and Musica Viva, held in February of this year in Tchaikovsky Hall. Fans of Salzburg festival production also heard his «Alcina» starring Cecilia Bartoli, staged by Michieletto as well.
In «L’elisir d’amore « the stage action was sometimes so exciting that it offset the conductor; on the other hand, it was a good sign that the orchestra and the singers had a full alliance, the accompaniment was tactful and accurate and was not stifling vocals. The pianist who accompanied the recitatives with crafty improvisations and appropriate quotations from popular classical works (such as «Für Elise»), deserved applause too. At such moments the music became a character of its own, bringing its «spoonful of humor» into the action.
… After Adina broke off her engagement to Belcore, the sleek captain became bored and decided to make up for the disappointment with the help of strong drinks and more. Then he was exposed and arrested by the police with dogs while choir was glorifying the wonderful elixir of Dulcamara.