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Opera Essentials: L’elisir d’amore

Our quick guide to Donizetti's sparkling comedy.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

7 November 2012 at 10.46am | 2 Comments

The Story Begins…
Young Nemorino is passionately in love with the beautiful Adina, but she seems more interested in the boastful Sergeant Belcore. Can Doctor Dulcamara’s dubious ‘love potion’ help Nemorino to win Adina’s heart?

Quacks and Potions
L’elisir d’amore was inspired by a French comic opera, Le Philtre (1831) by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, with a libretto by Eugène Scribe. Gaetano Donizetti and Felice Romani transformed Scribe’s light drama into something far more moving, particularly in their treatment of Nemorino and of Adina – the flirt who gradually learns what love means. The character of Dulcamara may have been partly inspired by real quack doctors, of whom there were many in 19th-century Europe.

An Opera in 14 Days?
Donizetti’s early biographers Federico Alborghetti and Michelangelo Galli claimed that the composer and his librettist Romani wrote L’elisir d’amore in 14 days. Actually, it seems that the opera was created in a period of about six weeks (even so, pretty impressive!) The opera’s premiere was a triumph and secured Donizetti’s position as one of the leading Italian opera composers of his day.

Deft Musical Characterizations
Donizetti deftly brings each of the principal characters to life through his music. Nemorino’s tenderness is shown in his arias ‘Quanto è bella’ and ‘Una furtiva lagrima’. Belcore’s arrogance is illustrated in the pompous little march that accompanies him, and in his swaggering aria ‘Come Paride vezzoso’. Adina begins as a light-hearted coquette, her vocal line laced with brilliant coloratura, but her style becomes increasingly infected with Nemorino’s lyricism in Act II. Dulcamara’s delight in the sound of his own voice is shown in his rapid and constant patter-singing.

Eye-Catching Antics
The Royal Opera’s production of L’elisir d’amore shows that Donizetti’s opera can be modernized while keeping the story intact. Inspired by his childhood, director Laurent Pelly sets the drama in a 20th-century village, to hilarious effect: Dulcamara drives about in a lumbering van, the village youths ride Vespas and everyone congregates at the shabby local bar. Oh, and watch out for the dog!

L'elisir d'amore runs from 27 May–22 June 2017. Tickets are still available.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

7 November 2012 at 10.46am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged 5 things, Adina, background, Belcore, by Laurent Pelly, Dulcamara, essentials, Gaetano Donizetti, introduction, L'Elisir d'amore, Le Philtre, nemorino, Opera Essentials, Production

This article has 2 comments

  1. Roy Greenhalgh responded on 18 November 2014 at 8:00am Reply

    Thanks for the tips. Without them I would have thought it was a production of Oklahoma...

  2. demolay responded on 27 May 2017 at 1:20pm Reply

    Pour ma part la meilleur version et celle avec Anna Netrebko Rolando Villazon Leo Nucci Ildebrando d'Arcangelo .Modernisè un opera en coupe tout le charme et l'interet.Cela et completement nul a mon avis. Quand on vois sur scene un camping car ou un chariot elevateur ou tous en maillot de bain dans une chaise longue et j'en passe Cordialement

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