A soulful bassoon melody summons our ears to what is perhaps Donizetti’s most famous of arias -- Una Furtiva Lagrima. Quiet and contemplative, and closer to the opera’s end than beginning, it’s slow-moving pace seems to populate an island in the otherwise playful pile-on romp that is Donizetti’s Elixir of Love. Tenor Charles Castronovo’s almost unbearably sweet rendition seemed to cast a spell that was only interrupted by the outpouring of audience shouts of Bravo! that ensued. You too may feel that Donizetti could ask for nothing more than Castronovo’s tenor voice to bring his near-sacred melody alive.
The program book seems to give fair warning that Castronovo’s voice will be a tenor to remember. Unlike others, his headshot is black and white, texturing light to make you squint in the darkened opera hall to see if it is actually sepia-toned like the first photographs born in Donizetti’s later years.
It strikes this writer that Castronovo’s olden time headshot and stunning aria performance don’t even begin to convey how well-suited Castronovo is to play the lovesick puppy role of Nemorino, a down and out waiter who is suckered by a con man, Dulcamara, into buying a love potion, which is actually cheap wine, in hopes he can make his love interest besotted. Castronovo’s physical person seems as agile as his voice. This is a heartthrob who also knows how to be the clown!
Nemorino’s unrequited love interest is Adina, sung effortlessly by soprano Ailyn Pérez, the rich and beautiful hotelier and employer who doesn’t have inclination to pay adoring Nemorino much mind. Add Adina’s suitor, a macho military man, baritone Joshua Hopkins as Belcore, and the aforementioned conman Dulcamara, sung by bass baritone Kyle Ketelsen, and this predictable story of boy-gets-girl-in-the-end fills the opera hall with a feeling of light prosecco bubbles, so unlike the dark, dark, dark Lyric season opening of Macbeth.
Lyric Opera’s Creative Team is Pitch Perfect
In no small way our feeling of lightness comes not only from the bel canto score and Pérez’ nimble coloratura at every turn, but also this simple set’s ability to transport us to the sunny Amalfi coast. Sometimes festooned with Chinese lanterns, sometimes with a large sloping banquet table for an almost wedding day, and always hinting at ocean air filling our lungs, this simple and cheerful set telegraphs from the gitgo that this is an opera with a very happy ending.
More, the set never gets in the way of the tightly choreographed chorus whose songs are ever jolly. Other than a brief moment when a few of our protagonists step out in electric slides followed with a grapevine, there isn’t much dance per se. OH, but don’t those few very brief movements raise the curtain and reveal just how tightly woven and placed every member of the ensemble chorus is at every moment. This writer marvels at the granular detail that any labanotation would need to bring about such a feeling of seamlessness on the very populated stage.
If you relish many opera’s interminable dying scenes and lust for sturm und drang, Lyric’s light-hearted rendition of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love is probably not for you. For the rest of us, who delight in entertainment as an end in itself, Lyric’s Elixir of Love is a top pick for your time.
Thru October 8, 2021
*Various curtain times
20 North Wacker Drive
For tickets call 312.827.5600 or visit the Lyric Opera website. .
Denis Vélez - Giannetta
Charles Castronovo - Nemorino
Ailyn Pérez - Adina
Joshua Hopkins - Belcore
Kyle Ketelsen - Dulcamara
Enrique Mazzola (Conducter)
Daniel Slater (Director)
Robert Innes Hopkins (Designer)
Simon Mills (Original Lightning Designer)
Sarah Riffle (Revival Lighting Director)
Michael Black (Chorus Master)
Tim Claydon (Choreographer)
Sarah Hatten (Wigmaster & Makeup Designer)
David Toulson (Assistant Director)
Dan Sokalski (Stage Manager)
Elizabeth Askren (Stage Band Conducter)
William C. Billingham, Susan Miller Hult, Noah Lindquist, Jerad Mosbey (Musical Preparation)
Prompter (Susan Miller Hult)
For more information, visit the Lyric Opera website or call 312.827.5600.
Note: Picture this Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago
Photos by Cory Weaver
This story has been added to the Picture This Post roundup article on OPERAS WE LOVE.
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About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.