An evening of Love, Laughter & Magic Potion a Review Anita Neufeld
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Sunday, January 21, 2018 • 2:00pm matinee
Thursday, January 25, 2018 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, January 27, 2018 @ 7:30pm
As we experienced a rare break from the relentless rain of late, I was struck again with appreciation for the light, elegant design of the Queen Elizabeth Theater. The sun streamed in the windows as we ordered a cup of tea and prepared to experience the latest Vancouver Opera House offering: Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore.
L’Elisir d’amore is a comic opera in two acts. It originally premiered in 1832, the height of the ‘bel canto’ era. “Bel Canto” originates from the Italian for ‘beautiful singing’ and is characterized by vocal agility and emotional performances.
Touted as: “one of the most well-known operas of the bel canto era and the most performed of all Donizetti’s operas”, as well as being described as a light-hearted, delightful romp, it seemed a good choice to initiate my first opera experience.
The stage curtain, in the style of Robin Moline, gave credence to the feeling of ‘anytown’ Canada at the turn of the century. Its translucence allowed for each break to be punctuated with a vignette of the actors posing dramatically. The staging itself was centered around a beautiful, full-sized gazebo. A gorgeous classic ‘ice cream’ truck was driven right onto the stage, eliciting a number of delighted gasps from members of the audience.
The story unfolds of the love-sick Nemorino, (played by Canadian Tenor Andrew Haji) whose heart is longing for Adina (played by Chinese Soprano Ying Fang), the beautiful town Librarian. She, of course, spurns him, claiming not to love any one man and also, a little disdainful of Nemorino’s propensity toward moping and sighing. She meets Sargent Belcore (played by Canadian Baritone Brett Polegato) and uses him as a way to punish Nemorino. Meanwhile, ‘Doctor’ Dulcamara (played by Canadian Bass-Baritone Stephen Hegedus), a salesman and charlatan arrives in town selling an elixir that he promises will cure anything. Nemorino asks him if he has a love potion and the doctor sells him a potion (actually, a bottle of wine). He tells Nemorino that it will take 24 hours to go into effect and Nemorino takes the potion. In anticipation of the success he will have in 24 hours, he ignores Adina and this angers her. Wanting to punish him, she agrees to marry the Sargent that very day.
The second act finds Adina making wedding preparations, but irked that Nemorino is nowhere to be found. Nemorino is in despair because the potion will not have time to take effect before the wedding. The doctor advises another dose of elixir, Sargent Belcore advises Nemorino to join the army in order to pay for it. He does, and proceeds to drink more of the elixir. In the meantime, news has gone through the town grapevine, aka Gianneta (played by Canadian Soprano Elaina Moreau), that Nemorino’s uncle has died and he is now a rich man.
Suddenly, he is the most eligible bachelor in town. Adina finds out about him joining the army and buys back his contract. She realizes they she loves him and well ….all’s well that ends well!
The musical score, which was challenging and varied was led masterfully by Jonathan Darlington, (courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company) He has recently made appearances with the Orchestre de Paris (Danses et extase) and The Royal Swedish Opera (Jenufa). As well, he appeared with the VO for Othello and Dead Man Walking in 2017.
Ying Fang, who recently appeared as Morgana in Alcina with the Washington National Opera and as Pamina in Die Zauberflote with Opernhaus Zurich, delighted the audience with her debut performance for the VO. Her voice, which has been described as a: “pure and moving soprano” by the New York Times, was at once haunting and lyrical as well as flirty and light as the score demanded.
Andrew Haji, who has appeared as Nemorino in L’Elisir d’amore and Tamino in Die Zauberflote with the Canadian Opera Company, gave a debut performance for the VO that was whimsical and good hearted. In keeping with the theme of the opera, (The Triumph of Sincerity) Haji seemed to downplay the potential buffoonery of the character and highlight his good nature and faithfulness.
His performance of the famous Aria: “Una furitiva lagrima” (The Fugitive Tear) was stirringly beautiful and one could see why he has been called “one of the most sought-after voices on both the operatic and concert stages.”
Not to be forgotten, the supporting cast of Brett Polegato (Belcore) and Stephen Hegedus (Dulcamara) lent their considerable talents to the performance as well. Both had parts that required a great deal of vocal acrobatics as well as physically demanding roles. They lent light-hearted humor to the setting and gave a lift to a places where the love story descended somewhat into the maudlin.
Backed by the Vancouver Opera Chorus, Supernumeraries and child supernumeraries the L’Elisir d’amore delivered an energetic, moving performance.
I feel the Vancouver Opera Society has made pleasant efforts in its mandate to “redefine “Opera” and revolutionize its accessibility and community value”. I appreciated the English translation of the Libretto on the screen above the stage, discreet, so as not to detract from the stage action, but helpful for understanding the narrative of the story. As an opera ‘newbie’, I admit to being concerned about not connecting to the music, about not understanding what was happening in the story and about my own lack of general opera knowledge. This was absolutely not the case and I would urge everyone to give it a try! I found this performance both comical and moving, eminently relatable and musically entrancing!
FULL TICKET INFORMATION
Single tickets for this incredible production start at $49 and are available from the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, (located at 1945 McLean Drive, Vancouver), Monday-Thursday 9 am – 5 pm, Friday 9 am – 1 pm), by phone at 604-683-0222 or online at www.vancouveropera.ca. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted. DISCOUNTS: For groups of ten or more, call 604-683-0222.
By Anita Neufeld