On Stage: The Elixir Of Love

So I’m sitting on the couch slowing coming down from a post-Monkees-concert high when The Wife comes to me and says

“Get dressed. It’s time for the opera.”

“Uh, you know, I went to the Monkees concert all by myself because you don’t like them. Why do I have to go to the opera?”

“Because it’s good for you. And you secretly like it. And because you need the culture. You just went to a Monkees concert, for Pete’s sake.”

“You know, ‘For Pete’s Sake’ was the name of the song that ran during the end credits of ‘The Monkees’ second season. It was written by Peter Tork but the song title was suggested by Mike Nesmith.”

This — THIS is why you need the opera. Let’s go.”

And so it was that I once again found myself at the Loretto-Hilton Center in the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre for the latest production by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Friday night’s performance was “The Elixir of Love” by Gaetano Donizetti and Felice Romani. A romantic comedy, it was first performed in 1832, more than 120 years before the birth of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

If you’re wondering how much the romantic comedy has changed in 172 years, the answer is: not much.

elixir-main-image-325pxIn a small town with a large gazebo, Nemorino (Rene Barbera) sells ice cream cones from a truck (they had ice cream trucks in 1832 Italy? Ah, I see. This is an updated version set in 1914) and pines for the lovely Adina (Susannah Biller). Adina feigns no interest in Nemo because, well, some women are like that. Especially in romantic comedies.

A swaggering soldier named Belcore (Tim Mix) arrives in town looking for new recruits. He instantly falls in love with Adina and proposes marriage because, well, some men do that. But only in romantic comedies.

Adina accepts Belcore’s proposal in order to make Nemo jealous, which really paints Adina as a you-know-what since Nemo has made no secret of his feelings for her. But, you know, romantic comedy.

Broken-hearted, Nemo runs into a charismatic traveling salesman named Dr. Dulcamara (Patrick Carfizzi). The doctor sells him ‘the elixir of love’ which is guaranteed to drive Adina into Nemo’s loving arms.

You can probably guess where this is headed. Especially if you know romantic comedies. I’d complain about a lack of originality but for all I know this is one of the first times the ‘love potion’ tale was ever told.

“The Elixir of Love” is a delightful little trifle if you enjoy this kind of story. The Wife enjoyed it more than ‘The Magic Flute’ and I would go along with that. As usual the music was superb and the singers were outstanding. I especially enjoyed Carfizzi’s performance as the snake-oil salesman. The staging and costumes weren’t as creative as ‘The Magic Flute’ but they served their purpose.

The Elixir of Love’ runs through June 25. http://www.opera-stl.org/ 

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