I took no notes during the performance, but a series of things did occur to me afterward. They are merely impressions, not analytical points in any meaningful sense, so I think I’m still in bounds on this one.
L’Elisir d’Amore is new to me. I’ve heard a few other of Donizetti’s operas, and they’ve struck me as terrific fun but not always deeply moving. Donizetti’s music at its worst can be somewhat repetitive. But when he’s on his game, you can have yourself a real good time.
And a good time was had by pretty much everyone on Monday night, as far as I can tell. The impression this performance gave was one of the singers, the orchestra and the audience all thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The Met’s production was all bright colors and cheerful cardboard cut-outs. The acting at times was a little hammy, but this opera at times is a little hammy, so I don’t think the performers can be blamed for that. Have you ever noticed that large portions of the story of this opera could have been written by a twelve-year-old boy? As in “there’s this girl I like, and I don’t think she likes me back, but everything she does is CLEARLY FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF TORMENTING ME OR ENGAGING IN CODED COMMUNICATION WITH ME, OH HOW OBSESSED AM I WITH THIS GIRL.” If Nemorino were a few years younger and born in the twentieth century, he would have been making Adina annoying little mix tapes. And the youthful wish-fulfillment fantasy pays off in the end – after all his antics it turns out that she will go to the seventh-grade dance marry him after all. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s rich by now. Still a bit of a moron, but a charming moron – and really, what more can a young lady ask for?
And besides, I sort of love the fact that he doesn’t have to give Adina the magic elixir to make her love him – he has to drink it himself! Cheap bordeaux: the self-help book of the early nineteenth century. Juan Diego Florez (Nemorino) got a lot of mileage out of Nemorino’s drunken antics. And he sounded great too. Nemorino’s Act II aria where he is leaving after seeing a tear in Adina’s eye gave Florez ample space to show off his voice and technique, and he made the most of the opportunity. But I actually enjoyed Nemorino’s duets with Dulcamara (Alessandro Corbelli) and Belcore (Mariusz Kwiecien) more (the one where Dulcamara is selling him the elixir; and where Belcore is convincing him to join the army).
But the reason I bought the ticket in the first place was to hear Diana Damrau. And wow, what a lovely voice. This whole performance was sung with a cheerful ease that was both wonderful to hear and entirely in keeping with the production. I love listening to Damrau’s voice move – she makes Donizetti’s showy little phrases speak. It was great.
So. A thoroughly enjoyable few hours. And on the subject of Donizetti, I’m half tempted to take a trip down to Houston at the end of April to hear Joyce DiDonato in Maria Stuarda – someone talk me out of this, please.