The Metropolitan Opera has been staging The Elixir of Love, Donizetti’s comedy. The final performance is on Saturday night. If you’re within shouting distance of New York—I would catch it.
The Met’s production is that of Bartlett Sher, which bowed on Opening Night of the 2012–13 season. It is a fine production. Personally, I loved the previous one, by John Copley. It looked like an old-fashioned Valentine’s Day card. It looked like The Elixir of Love. At the end, a banner was unfurled: “Viva l’Amore.”
Critics despised this production. I suspect it was “too much like right,” as an old southern friend of mine would say.
Anyway, I caught the Met’s Elixir on February 7—and will give you some generalities.
In the role of Adina is Pretty Yende, the well-named South African soprano. She is utterly winning and plenty adept. Her coloratura is accurate, and she can sing way up high. Her voice is pleasing and bright.
I have a single pick (meaning, nitpick): an absence of “melt.” I did not hear much melting lyricism the night I attended, much pliancy, much “give.” Perhaps she can bring it out on another occasion.
The tenor—the Nemorino—is Matthew Polenzani. He is, of course, Polenzani-esque. On the night I heard him, he was enjoying himself thoroughly: his voice, the music, the role. This was especially true when he was unaccompanied—when he had the stage to himself, so to speak.
That is a powerful moment, for the opera singer who wants it: his voice alone, with no other voice and nothing from the orchestra.
Nemorino’s aria, “Una furtiva lagrima,” was superb. Exemplary. It is important to sing the accidentals with perfect accuracy (or close enough). This, Polenzani did. The entire aria, as I’ve said, was an example. A model.
Davide Luciano was new to me, I believe (and is a man with two first names). An Italian baritone, he is charged with singing Belcore. What a beautiful voice he has—cantante.
How about Dr. Dulcamara? Our swindler who sells “il magico liquor,” the elixir of love? He is Ildebrando D’Arcangelo—who is good, very good. But he’s not my idea of a Dulcamara. I like my Dulcamaras fat and funny. D’Arcangelo is ever the leading man, a glamorous bass-baritone. He sang Dr. Dulcamara with great authority. Dulcamara was imposing. There is nothing necessarily wrong with D’Arcangelo’s approach. It’s just that I like a little more charm.
Indulge me a memory—of Ambrogio Maestri greeting the villagers with “Udite, udite, o rustici!” (“Listen up, listen up, you rustics!”). I wish you could have heard him roll that “r”—with perfect condescension. “O rrrrrustici!”
In the pit is a conductor I had not heard, Domingo Hindoyan. His last name suggests Armenian heritage. Maestro Hindoyan is Venezuelan. His bio says that he is “one of today’s most exciting young conductors,” enjoying a “vibrant career.”
He acquitted himself creditably in Elixir. I have my criticisms, as anyone would. For example, I like “Esulti pur la barbara,” that delicious duet, lighter. And fleeter. But Hindoyan took pleasure in the opera, as the cast onstage did. This sort of thing is contagious. And it should probably begin with the conductor.
As a bonus, the Met orchestra played with skill and élan. Should I say “bonus”? An orchestra means more to an opera than most people know—and not just to The Ring, for example. Donizetti too.