The Elixir of Love at NY City Opera

I've been missing in action on this blog the last few days, as I had a writing deadline on Friday and spent much of the week deep in writing…  But I finished up the draft Friday afternoon and have a nice, busy culture weekend.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a matinee performance of Donizetti's opera, The Elixir of Love (L'Elisir d'Amore) at NY City Opera.  This is an "updating" to mid-20th century America – most likely Texas, to judge by the license plate my concert-going companion espied on Dr. Dulcamara's snappy mid-century convertible, the pay-phone mounted on the side of Adina's Diner, the dress of the players, etc.  The story worked in that setting, but the whole thing would have made more sense had they sung it in English, the way this company used to perform most operas before the invention of projected titles.

I quickly understood The Times' criticism of Brad Cohen's conducting.  He leads an energetic performance, but the pace is just too fast much of the time.  I felt it especially during some of the choruses, when the orchestra seemed slightly ahead of the chorus, which just could not enunciate their lines at his tempi.  Otherwise the orchestra sounded find, and there was less of this problem during the solo numbers.

David Lomeli, singing the tenor lead of Nemorino, took some time warming up in Act I (it was, after all, a matinee) but was in good voice in time for his big number in Act II.  Stefania Dovhan's wig was the focus of attention as she sang Adina most fetchingly.  Jose Adan Perez's Belcore seemed to me to have enough swagger but not enough force – I kept thinking back to the amazing Greg Baker in the old Metropolitan Opera production whose machismo dominated the stage in a way Perez did not, despite fine singing.  Marco Nistico's Belcore also seemed to me more restrained than the role could stand, although it was on its own a fine impersonation.

But this performance seemed mainly about Jonathan Miller's rpoduction concept, wewll executed by set and costume designer Isabella Bywater and lighting designer Jeff Harris.  I think it is, overall, a success, but a minor one.

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