Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God
In viewing the current L'elisir d'amore, I noted that despite its popularity, there are stretches that are more formulaic than inspired. The tenor role of Nemorino was a favorite of Luciano Pavarotti, so it was on regularly at The Metropolitan Opera during his glory years, but since then, not so much. In its best moments, such as Nemorino's opening aria, "Quanto è bella"?," Dr. Dulcamara's entrance and of course the moment everyone waits for, "Una furtiva lagrima," Nemorino's second aria, we see why Donizetti is always with us. Opera experienced the way it was meant to be is a treat, despite imperfections. A cast of exciting singers can light a fire under this uneven piece, otherwise it is just a pleasant evening's entertainment: its characters are stereotypes, the story's boy yearns for girl but girl would rather flirt with a whole crowd of boys until she realizes she really does love him; add in a few colorful others and voila.
As Adina, hometown soprano Adelaide Boedecker is more soubrette than coloratura at this stage. She will acquire more ability to sing through the chorus in ensembles as the voice matures just a bit. She is charming on stageno wonder all then men potentially fall under her Adina's spell. Geoffrey Agpalo is Nemorino with a pleasant but mostly undistinguished voice, until he delivers "Una furtiva lagrima" with nuance and care, rising to levels that were unsuspected before that. Stephano de Peppo as Dr. Dulcamara reminds what Italian specificity is all about. Even though his voice is a touch light for one of the greatest comic basso role in the entire repertory, he gives lessons by dint of his complete stage presence. Alex DeSocio is Belcore, sergeant of a local regiment. This is such a thankless role; even though for a decent part of the opera he looks like he is going to get the girl, she is snatched from him at the very last second, and without even a decent aria. DeSocio does well by his parts in duets and trios and looks handsome in his uniform. Studio artist Elizabeth Novella is Gianetta, who leads a couple of choruses and little else. None are helped by Marco Nistico's stand and sing stage direction.
Conductor John F. Spencer IV leads a reasonably lively performancethe orchestra plays well for him from the get go. Lovely flute/piccolo solos in the overture delight the ears. There is a bit of a problem balancing the whole show, as neither the soprano nor the tenor cut through the rather large sound of the chorus in ensembles quite the way they should. He needs to get the chorus to hold back just a little.
The production is very traditional. The sets are by Roger Hanna. An inn used in last year's Rita makes a triumphant return for the second scene of each act, set in the village square. I guess this inn is exclusive to operas by Donizetti. Howard Tsvi Kaplan does his usual fine work as costume designer, Keri Yunker lights it all with bright sun from southern Italy.
Sarasota Opera's L'elisir d'amore is light, pastoral fun, on the level of what one might see in a medium-size opera house in Italy or other parts of Europe. Sarasota is lucky to have such a consistent company to enjoy.
L'elisir d'amore runs through March 21, 2020, at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information call 941-366-8450 or visit www.sarasotaopera.org.