Elixir of Love, Houston

Written by:
Michael Wade Simpson
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The Elixir of Love

by Gaetano Donizetti
Houston Grand Opera
October 24, 2009
Houston, TX

Ektarina Slurina (Adina)  HGO Chorus. Photo: Felix Sanchez.

 Attention sensitive men of questionable self esteem, sometimes you get the
girl, and if you are lucky, the money too. So it goes in Gaetano Donizetti’s
*The Elixir of Love*, a beloved “Melodramma giocoso.” Although Donizetti’s
prolific tendencies were legendary, we only know a handful of his operas.
It’s no wonder *Elixir* survived, it’s short, sweet, chock full of colorful
characters and includes one killer tenor tune that tears at your
heartstrings just when you are least expecting. Houston Grand Opera opened
their season with a rousing *Elixir*, packed with enough star power, charm,
and soaring voices to get any opera lover on board for the treats that await
them throughout the year.

 The tale of Nemorino’s undying love for the learned Adina contains just
enough of a plot to get us rooting for the smitten underdog. Even when the
narcissistic Belacore woos her with his good looks and spiffy uniform, Adina
can’t quite get the heart-on-his-sleeve little guy out of her mind. Enter
the con man, Dr. Dulcamara with his potion for love, and the usual hilarity
ensues. And for added intrigue, Nemorino inherits a boatload of cash from
his uncle.

 The cast—all terrific– are particularly gifted in the comic timing
category, a necessary component for any *Elixir.* John Osborn, in his HGO
debut, bestows the smitten Nemorino with the right dose of bumbling
humbleness, then pulls out all the stops for the famous aria, “Una furtiva
lagrima” (a furtive tear). Osborn digs deep here, looking inward, and
finding the heart and soul of this otherwise rompish opera. Russian soprano
Ekaterina Siurina also makes a stunning HGO debut as Adina, bestowing the
smart, land-owning girl with the confidence and bright sound necessary to
pull off a believable change of heart. HGO studio alumnus Liam Bonner is all
swagger as Belcore, the irresistible man in uniform. Bonner’s commanding
vocals and presence make a perfect fit for the self-obsessed soldier.
Renowned Italian bass-baritone Allessandro Corbelli delivers a zesty and
virtuositic performance as the quack conman doctor. Charles Gamble lends
considerable talents in psychical theater as Dr. Dulcamara’s assistant,
ramping up the hilarity. Catherine Martin’s Gianetta is rich with charm and
substance as well.

 Annabel Arden directs with robust pace and an eye for physical comedy. Lez
Brotherston sets his *Elixir* on what looks like a 1950s film set in an
undisclosed quaint Italian village. Giuseppe di Iorio’s lighting adds to the
overall “stage within a stage” effect.

 Richard Bado, HGO’s chorus master, and conductor Edoardo Muller contribute
to the evening’s sparkling polish. The curtain goes down on this bel canto
treasure with a shower of pink confetti in a pitch perfect season opener. So
let the meek survive, thrive and party on.

Nancy Galeota-Wozny

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