Whoever has seen this production ol L’elisir d'amore at the San Carlo, would have recognised in the scenes and costumes a direct reference to the Neapolitan crib tradition. Every detail was an overt citation of it: the little stone house, the inn, the half-ruined arch, the cheeses, garlic and corn-on-the cob hanging on walls; and also, the "Turkish band", the clothing of the villagers and of Belcore’s troops, the traditional picturesque characters of nativity scenes which became a celebrated form of art in Naples in the 18th century, still highly valued nowadays.

© Francesco Squeglia
© Francesco Squeglia

Director Riccardo Canessa made an enjoyable, joyful transposition from the original Basque village imagined by the authors, of an opera which was one of Donizetti's most frequently performed, the tender love story and an amusing comedy combined with lovely music.

L’elisir d’amore premiered in Milan in 1832 and was a triumph, thus securing Donizetti a place as one of the top Italian opera composers of his day. It is a masterpiece of lyric theatre: the great magic of this opera lies in the fact that while we hear quotes from Rossini, suddenly, we have a concertato where the a pre-Romantic atmosphere emerges. In the second act, funny scenes like the duet between Belcore and Nemorino, are an obvious homage to the comic opera of early 19th century, however, they leave suddenly step to bel canto masterpieces.

Nemorino's love for Adina is expressed through lyrical pieces, including one of the most beloved arias in all lyric repertoire, “Una furtiva lagrima”; and step by step, Adina’s vivacious, yet not ostentatious, boldness tempers as her feelings towards Nemorino begin to change, while Dulcamara unceasingly babbles with incurable self-confidence and Belcore brags about his gallantry, giving Adina the opportunity to deride his conceit and boastfulness. This charming production is full of lively, scenic humour, from Nemorino's clumsy courtship to Dulcamara's bizarre wagon from which he sells his fake remedies, to Belcore and his implausible militaries.

Leonardo Cortellazzi, was a convincing Nemorino, with a gentle but heartfelt voice. The applause for his "Una furtiva lagrima” was not roaring, though, as his execution lacked some profoundness. He showed an initial caution which restrained his interpretation, but then he brilliantly passed this initial hesitancy and showed a soft but precise, refined voice, with greater and greater emotional involvement; only, in the parts where he sang with the chorus, was it problematic to hear his light timbre.

© Francesco Squeglia
© Francesco Squeglia

Grazia Doronzio’s Adina impressed for her unforced technique, clear voice and precise diction. She showed a secure stage presence, and effectively managed the progressive changes in the mood of the protagonist, from arrogance and ruthlessness toward Nemorino, to moments of tender revelation of her feelings, by means of a strong temperament, and astutely contrasting Dulcamara and Belcore.

Mario Cassi's Belcore was a braggart, well suited to the character depicted by Donizetti and his librettist Felice Romani. He demonstrated a very interesting round voice and good articulation of sounds to depict the smug attitude of his character.

Nicola Alaimo was an almost perfect Dulcamara: he played him not only in a captivating way, but was also responsive to the nuances of the score suggested by conductor. The comic character was fully expressed by the basso who came out on top in the scene thanks to a voice that sounded full, with a mastery in the diction which made the tongue twisters fluid and with truly remarkable acting skills.

The scene when Dulcamara arrives in Act I, trying to sell to the peasants his powerful remedies, was colourful and enthralling, as was the festive atmosphere of the village on the occasion of the wedding of Adina and Belcore at the beginning of the second act, which was full of lively and amusing moments.

Giuseppe Finzi, one of the most promising young conductors in America and Europe, having been appointed as “Resident Conductor” at San Francisco Opera in 2011, brought characters alive: he interpreted Donizetti’s opera by enhancing the tender sentiments of the score, with finely chiselled tempos, well supported by a sparkling, lively orchestra.