L'Elisir d'Amore

SF Opera's L'Elisir d'Amore

_74A8128 * Notes * 
A new production of L'elisir d'amore opened at San Francisco Opera this afternoon. Updated to the 1950s and set in the Italian Riviera, today's performance was a delight to see and hear.

This co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago is definitely festive. The action takes place at the restaurant of the Hotel Adina (pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver), owned by Adina, where Nemorino is a waiter. We are outside and can see the sea. The set and costumes are supposed to evoke Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and many of the characters do look very stylish. There are also three Vespas on stage in one of the scenes. The only down side of the set is that they brought the curtain down twice to change scenes, even though the set essentially stayed the same. It seems that something more artful might have been employed though everything happened reasonably rapidly.

Conductor Ramón Tebar's San Francisco Opera debut sounded fine, the orchestra played well, especially the woodwinds. There were a few moments when the orchestra got slightly ahead of the singers, but got back on track quickly.

The chorus was very funny and all the choristers sang together robustly. Baritone David Bizic was suitably blustery and arrogant as Belcore, he does sound gravelly in his lower range but for this role was not a problem. Baritone Renato Girolami was very amusing as Dulcamara, and his voice too has texture to it, more of a gritty sound. I never much noticed the role of Giannetta before, but Alder Fellow soprano Arianna Rodriguez sounded lovely, her voice is very clean.

_75A0453Tenor Pene Pati is truly a charming Nemorino. His voice is absolutely beautiful, bright and clear throughout his range and he sings with ease. His "Quanto è bella, quanto è cara" in Act I was impressive, and his "Una furtiva lagrima" was plaintive. He was well matched with soprano Slávka Zámečníková, in her American debut. Her voice is elegant and very pretty, and she seems to sing without effort. Her Act II aria "Prendi, per me sei libero" was splendid.

* Tattling * 
The house looked entirely full, as this was both the prima and a matinée. There wasn't much talking  or electronic noise in Box Z, only lots of laughs around us. I did hear a cellular phone ring right before the Barcarolle in Act II, Scene 1.

There was some sort of very loud alarm that went off right before "Una furtiva lagrima" that sounded like a bird warbling. The maestro stopped the music and asked for it to be turned off before starting over again.

SFCM's L'elisir d'amore

Sfcm-elisir* Notes *
Last week the San Francisco Conservatory Opera Program held two performances of L'elisir d'amore. The charming production marked the debut of director Jose Maria Condemi, who is incoming Director of Opera at the school. The spacious set (pictured left) features a runway downstage of the orchestra pit, and different levels upstage. The costumes looked to be from the 1940s.

Proceedings were rather lively, the young singers moved vivaciously. There was much physical humor, and Daniel Cameron was particularly amusing as Belcore. Evan Kardon (Adina) was hilarious in "Io son ricco e tu sei bella," rowing in an inappropriate but entertaining style. Sergey Khalikulov's Dulcamara was funny as well.

As for the music, most of the voices were bright and light, perfect for this opera. Mario Rojas (Nemorino) sang "Una furtiva lagrima" with beauty, and the bassoonist played nicely. Sabrina Romero's pretty voice suited Giannetta, and was a contrast to Kardon, whose sound is stronger and more piercing.

Scott Sandmeier conducted a spirited orchestra. The playing was rapid but mostly together, with only a few squeaks here and there.

* Tattling * 
The Saturday performance was sold out. There was a distressing amount of talking from many audience members.

Merola Opera Program's Elixir (Sunday)

Alexander Lewis as Nemorino, with Renée Rapier, Abigail Santos Villalobos, Janai Orman, Rebecca Davis, Robin Flynn, and Colleen Brooks; photo by Kristen Loken * Notes *
The matinée performance of the Merola Opera Program's L'elisir d'Amore yesterday was completely sold out. We had yet again a slightly different cast than before, as Alexander Lewis (Nemorino) was well enough to sing, but Sidney Outlaw (Dulcamara) was not. Thomas Florio did an admirable job singing Dulcamara twice in less than 24 hours. No fatigue seemed to show in his voice.

As Gianetta, Abigail Santos Villalobos pierced through the chorus and orchestra in Act I. Ao Li was really quite funny as Belcore, and lovable, but still appropriately obnoxious. Valentina Fleer sang Adina fluidly, her phrasing was especially beautiful in "Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera." There was a brief moment in Act II where she could not be heard over the orchestra. Alexander Lewis sang Nemorino with warmth, even though his voice has a bit of a metallic quality to it. He did strain a little, but his "Una furtiva lagrima" was pretty. His background in musical theater is clear, and his dancing impeccable.

* Tattling *
The audience was enthusiastic. There were watch alarms at each hour and seagulls could be occasionally heard during the quiet parts of the music.

Merola Opera Program's Elixir (Saturday)

Nadine Sierra as Adina, with Michael Spassov; photo by Kristen Loken * Notes *
The third performance of the Merola Opera Program's L'elisir d'Amore on Saturday went splendidly. Though there were brief moments in which one could pick out the individual voices, the chorus sounded more cohesive than before. The orchestra played at a fine clip, though there remained issues of synchronization. There were some intonation problems with the horns and woodwinds, and some fuzziness and squeaking, respectively. The bassoon did sound lovely, however.

The singing was consistent. Hye Jung Lee's voice did not always carry over the chorus and orchestra, but she does have an exquisite sound. Thomas Florio was a hilarious Dulcamara, and Benjamin Covey blustered his way through the part of Belcore. Daniel Montenegro was less tentative in his second and a half appearance as Nemorino. His voice is sweet and reedy, and he never sounded strained or constricted. Nadine Sierra's Adina was bubbly and effusive, and she could always be heard over the orchestra. The overall effect was very charming.

* Tattling *
There was some whispering and use of mobile devices during the performance, but nothing not easily ignored. During intermission there may have been some rather unbecoming preening and picture taking in the lobby from a group of young people.

Merola Opera Program's Elixir (Friday)

Valentina Fleer as Adina, with Janai Orman, Colleen Brooks, & Renée Rapier; photo by Kristen Loken * Notes *
The second performance of the Merola Opera Program's L'elisir d'Amore was last night, with different leads. The orchestra still was not precisely together, but again the space in Cowell is challenging. The chorus looked like they were having fun.

It certainly was fascinating to watch the same choreography on different bodies, the characterizations were rather different. Abigail Santos Villalobos was a saucy Giannetta, her volume was good, and her voice is very pretty. Sidney Outlaw's Dulcamara was amusing, his eyebrows are expressive and read well from a considerable distance. Ao Li was a scamp as Belcore, and his voice has a lovely richness to it.

Unfortunately, our Nemorino, Alexander Lewis, was ill. He coughed a few times in Act I, and clearly was trying his best to keep it together. His voice does have a lovely warmth, and his acting is strong. Lewis did not make it through Act II and Daniel Montenegro took over after a brief announcement from Mark Morash. Valentina Fleer sang Adina with a pure, clean tone. Her "Prendi, per me sei libero" was keen and effective.

Though the production is cute and fun, the concept behind it is baffling. If the characters are supposed to be rehearsing a play called "Elixir," why should Nemorino want a love potion from Dulcamara in real life? Nemorino might be simple, but this does not seem well-motivated or sensible.

* Tattling *
The audience was, for the most, part quiet and attentive. I was seated in the last row of the front section, and was pleased to not have to remove my hat. The person in H 2 brought his son who did not look older than 7 or 8. The child had his ear-buds in for most of the performance, and occasionally covered his ears so that he could better play the video game he had on a small portable device. More distracting was the rather loud hearing aid that emitted high-pitches all evening long.

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.

Merola's Elisir Casts 2010

The casts for Merola's L'elisir d'amore have been announced today.

Thursday, August 5 and Saturday, August 7
Nemorino: Daniel Montenegro
Adina: Nadine Sierra
Belcore: Benjamin Covey
Giannetta: Hye Jung Lee
Dulcamara: Thomas Florio

Friday, August 6 and Sunday, August 8
Nemorino: Alexander Lewis
Adina: Valentina Fleer
Belcore: Ao Li
Giannetta: Abigail Santos Villalobos
Dulcamara: Sidney Outlaw

Opening of L'elisir d'amore

Vargas-mula * Notes * 
The new production of L'elisir d'amore at San Francisco Opera is quite winning. Adapted from a co-production with Opera Colorado, Boston Lyric Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre and Fort Worth Opera, here
the setting was moved to a small town in the Napa Valley during World War I. James Robinson's direction was strong, and all of the acting was convincing and even funny. The set, from Allen Moyer, is simple without being stark, and has no large moving parts. Perhaps a change of scenery between acts would have been nice, but nonetheless, the gazebo used is versitile enough for all the scenes. Martin Pakledinaz used a pastel palette for the costumes, for the most part they were lovely, though the print of Adina's second costume did not read well from afar. Paul Palazzo's lighting was unobstrusive, there might have been one mishap as far as the lights, just as Giannetta and the female chorus come onstage for Act II Scene 4, the transition from a full lights to something more dim was not smooth.

Bruno Campanella took the overture a bit sluggishly, and though orchestra sounded in tune and together with each other, they were somewhat slow. The chorus did a splendid job, as usual. As for the soloists, they fit their roles well. Ji Young Yang (Giannetta) sang effortlessly, and was especially good in Act II. Alessandro Corbelli was a hilarious Dulcamara, his parlando is crisp, though he was a bit faster than the orchestra a few times. Giorgio Caoduro was likewise very good at the physical humor required for this opera, his Belcore was suitably full of himself. Caoduro's voice is pleasant and somewhat husky. Inva Mula's debut was impressive, her voice has good volume and can be quite beautiful. She does have moments of shrillness, at times her control is not completely perfect. Her Adina played off of Ramón Vargas' Nemorino very well, both moved well. Vargas sounded absolutely lovely, his "Una furtiva lagrima" was gorgeous.

* Tattling * 
The audience was somewhat sparse and there were very few late-comers. Some whispering was noted in Act I, but the beginning of Act II was worse, at least for me, as a rather uncouth couple sat near where I was standing in Row ZZ. Not only did they talk during the music, the female half of the couple opened her phone and read a text message. At least they were silent when hushed.

Santa Fe Opera's 2009 Season

July 3- August 29 2009: La Traviata
July 4- August 28 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
July 18- August 27 2009: Don Giovanni
July 25- August 18 2009: The Letter
August 1-19 2009: Alceste

The 2009 season at Santa Fe Opera opens with La Traviata with Natalie Dessay singing Violetta. Elza van den Heever has her Santa Fe Opera debut as Donna Anna, and Lucas Meachem sings the title role. The season also includes the world premiere of Paul Moravec's The Letter, with Patricia Racette in the role of Leslie Crosbie. The Baroque opera this year is Gluck, with Christine Brewer as Alceste and Paul Groves making his Santa Fe Opera debut as Admete.

Press Release | Official Site

L'Elisir d'Amore at Berkeley Opera

* Notes *
The 2008 season of Berkeley Opera opened last Saturday with a performance of the very silly opera L'Elisir d'Amore. The production is sweet, and the set only seemed to have two modes, one with one arch in the background and a few feet of stone wall, and another with three arches and a few feet less of stone wall. Of course, this was perfectly fine, elaborate scene changes are not necessary for L'Elisir. The costumes were pretty good, but the wigs were distractingly poor. Gianetta's dark red wig was styled à la Farrah Fawcett circa 1977, and Adina's ponyfall was too blond for the rest of her hair.

Angela Cadelago screeched a little in her first aria as Adina, but twittered along nicely for the rest of the opera. Andrew Truett acted the part of Nemorino very well, but his voice was a little quiet. He was especially funny when dancing around the stage in Act I Scene 2, when he moonwalked for a few seconds. Torlef Borsting (Belcore) was weak in his higher range, but his voice was pretty otherwise. Paul Cheak was quite amusing as Dulcamara, though his voice is a bit breathy. It was an altogether entertaining evening.

* Tattling *
The fake ficus tree was knocked over in Act I, Scene 1, but was promptly put back up by a chorus member. I overheard a hilarious conversation during intermission which covered the Ring (large women wearing breastplates shrieking in German) and Funny Games (one would be concerned if it was recommended by a friend because of what would that might mean about that person).

Arizona Opera's 2008-2009 Season

October 11-19 2008: Rigoletto
November 15-23 2008:
The Mikado
January 17-25 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 21- March 1 2009: Don Giovanni
March 26- April 5 2009: Tosca

Stephanie Blythe sings in The Mikado and Twyla Robinson sings Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.

2008-2009 Season Site | Official Site