Tuesday, 13 March 2018 22:49

Arts Capsule: Lively local color in Winter Opera's L'Elisir d'Amore

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The cast of "L'Elisir d'Amore" The cast of "L'Elisir d'Amore" Photo by Wylde Brothers Productions

When I saw my first Winter Opera production back in 2012, I wrote that the company "stands poised to be an important player in the growing opera scene locally" and that "we can expect great things from them." If their production this past weekend (March 9 and 11, 2018) of Donizetti's comedy "L'Elisir d'Amore" ("The Elixir of Love") is any indication, that prediction has come true.

Based on Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's popular comedy "Le philtre" from 1831, Felice Romani's book for "The Elixir of Love" is the story of Nemorino, a humble peasant smitten with the wealthy and beautiful landowner Adina. She, though, is more taken with the macho Sergeant Belcore. In desperation, Nemorino buys a love potion (actually just some cheap wine) from the traveling quack Dr. Dulcamara. Complications, as they say, ensue. But all ends happily for everyone-including Dr. Dulcamara who, as the curtain descends, is still fleecing the suckers.

Winter Opera's cast was one of the strongest they have come up with to date, with solid voices and acting skills to match. Tenor Peter Scott Drackley was an outstanding Nemorino, with a powerful tenor voice (including some remarkably strong low notes) and a winsome character that reminded me of Lou Costello (of Abbot and..). Winter Opera General Director Gina Galati was a lively and charming Adina, with a bright and flexible voice.

Bass Andrew Potter, who was so hilarious as Don Magnifico in Winter Opera's "La Cenerentola" last year, once again stole the show as the wily Dulcamara, complete with top hat, cape, magic wand and blonde assistant. His voice was solid right down to the bottom and his comic timing was impeccable.

Equally adept at comedy was baritone Christopher Holloway as the self-admiring Belcore. Soprano Karen Kanakis turned in a strong performance as the Giannetta, lighting up the stage with her gossipy "Saria possibile" number at the top of Act II.

Donizetti Romani intended "The Elixir of Love" to be somewhat remote from its original Milan audience from the start, setting it in Basque country late in the previous century. Winter Opera director Audrey Chait moved the action to St. Louis's Hill neighborhood in the early 1940s, which put it at about the same remove chronologically and culturally, in addition to injecting some local color.

Conductor Darwin Aquino led the small but robust orchestra in a fine account of Donizetti's appealing score. As is so often the case, they sounded bigger than ther modest size would lead one to expect.

"L'Elisr d'Amore" concluded Winter Opera's 11th season. Season 12 pick up in November with Strauss's "Die Fledermaus." At this point, my biggest criticism of the company is that they only present two performances of each show. Work this good deserves more exposure. I hope they get it some day.