Star-Spangled Sing-Off 2010
Merola Opera Program's Elixir (Friday)

Merola Opera Program's Elixir (Thursday)

Daniel Montenegro as Nemorino, photo by Kristen Loken * Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's L'elisir d'Amore opened last night at Cowell Theater in San Francisco. The orchestra started off crisply under Martin Katz. Though the pit must be less than ideal, they did sound jaunty throughout. The trumpet and bassoon had fine soli.

The cast was strong, a lot of lovely voices. The chorus may have not blended exactly together, but all of them can sing. Hye Jung Lee was adorable as Giannetta, pretty and bird-like, perhaps slightly quiet. Thomas Florio sang Dulcamara with a certain magnetic quality, and was very charming. Benjamin Covey was convincing as Belcore, conceited and silly as the role requires.

As for the two leads, both Nadine Sierra (Adina) and Daniel Montenegro (Nemorino) were wonderful. Sierra sang with ease, her icy voice worked well for Adina. She was able to sound beautifully tender at the end of Act I, when singing "Lo compatite, egli è un ragazzo: un malaccorto, un mezzo pazzo: si è fitto in capo ch'io debba amarlo, perch'ei delira d'amor per me." Montenegro moved with just enough awkwardness to suit Nemorino perfectly. His "Una furtiva lagrima" was gorgeous.

The production was not distracting, the set simple but descriptive. The costumes had the Forties look: lots of gloves, hats, and square shoulders. It was cute, and seemed less conceptual than last year's Così fan tutte, despite being set in a San Franciscan theater of 1942. Così may have suffered from too many ideas, and perhaps this Elisir had too few. The choreography involved a fair amount of dancing, but was not overwrought.

* Tattling *
Since I was seated in front of the director of the San Francisco Opera Center and behind a staff member of Merola, one can only assume someone has wised up to my tattling ways. Suffice it to say, everyone around me was well-behaved.