L'elisir d'amore

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Giuseppe Frezzolini was the first Dr. Dulcamara

L'elisir d'amore (English: The Elixir of Love) is an Italian comic opera in two acts. The music was written by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the libretto, after Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's Le philtre (1831).

The opera was first performed at the Teatro della Canobbiana, Milan, Italy on May 12, 1832. L'elisir d'amore is number 12 on the Operabase list of the most performed operas in the world.[1] The aria "Una furtiva lagrima" (English: A furtive tear) is very famous. In 1840, Richard Wagner arranged the opera for piano.[2] W. S. Gilbert wrote a parody of the opera called Dulcamara, or the Little Duck and the Great Quack in 1866.[3]

Roles[change | edit source]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
12 May 1832
(Conductor: Alessandro Rolla)
Nemorino, a peasant in love with Adina tenor Gianbattista Genero
Adina, a rich young woman soprano Sabine Heinefetter
Belcore, a sergeant baritone Henri-Bernard Dabadie
Dr Dulcamara, a travelling medicine man bass Giuseppe Frezzolini
Giannetta, Adina's friend soprano Marietta Sacchi
Peasants, soldiers of Belcore's platoon

Plot[change | edit source]

Place: A small village in the Basque Country.
[The Schirmer English edition of the score states that the action takes place 'In a small Italian Village'].[4]
Time: The end of the 18th century

Act 1[change | edit source]

Cover of the edizioni Ricordi libretto

Nemorino, a poor peasant, is in love with Adina, a beautiful landowner. She torments him with her seeming indifference. When Nemorino hears Adina reading to her workers the story of Tristan and Isolde, he considers using a magic potion to gain Adina's love. He is afraid she loves Sergeant Belcore. The Sergeant appears with his regiment. He proposes marriage to Adina. The traveling quack salesman, Dulcamara arrives, selling his bottled cure-all to the townspeople. Nemorino asks Dulcamara if he has anything like Isolde's love potion. Dulcamara says he does. He sells it to Nemorino at a price matching the contents of Nemorino's pockets. The bottle contains only wine. In order to make a timely escape, Dulcamara tells Nemorino the potion will not take effect until the next day. Nemorino drinks it, feeling its effects immediately.

Emboldened by the 'elixir' Nemorino encounters Adina. She teases him mercilessly, the audience senses that the attraction might be mutual, were it not for the marriage proposal of the Sergeant Belcore. In fact, their wedding date has been set for six days hence. Nemorino's confidence that tomorrow he will win Adina by virtue of the elixir, causes him to act indifferently toward her. This upsets Adina, but she attempts to hide her feelings. Instead, she ups the ante as well by agreeing to Sergeant Belcore's alternate suggestion: that they marry immediately as he has just received orders that the regiment must ship off the next morning. Both Adina and the Sergeant gauge Nemorino's reaction to this news, the Sergeant with resentment, Adina with despair. Nemorino panics, and cries out for Doctor Dulcamara to come to his aid.

Act 2[change | edit source]

Adina's outdoor wedding party is in full swing. Dr. Dulcamara is there, and performs a song with Adina to entertain the guests. The notary arrives to make the marriage official. Adina is sad to see that Nemorino has not appeared. Everyone goes inside to sign the wedding contract. But Dulcamara stays outside, helping himself to food and drink. Nemorino appears, having seen the notary, realizes that he has lost Adina. He sees the Doctor and frantically begs him for more elixir, of the type that will work immediately. But because Nemorino has no money, the Doctor refuses, disappearing inside. The Sergeant emerges, alone, wondering aloud why Adina has suddenly put off the wedding and the signing of the contract. Nemorino spots his rival, but is powerless to do anything. The Sergeant asks about Nemorino's dejection. When Nemorino says he has no money Belcore immediately suggests that if he joins the army he'll be paid immediately. He produces a contract, which Nemorino signs (with an X) in return for the cash Belcore gives him on the spot. Nemorino privately vows to fly to Dulcamara for more potion, while Belcore muses that he has easily dispatched of his rival by sending him off to war.

Later that evening the women of the village are gossiping that Nemorino is unaware that he has just inherited a large fortune from his deceased uncle. They spot Nemorino, who has clearly spent his military signing bonus, and has bought and consumed a large amount of 'elixir' (wine again) from Dr. Dulcamara. The women approach Nemorino with overly friendly greetings, the likes of which he has never seen. This is proof to Nemorino that this dose of the elixir has worked. Adina sees Nemorino in a jolly mood and, encountering Dr. Dulcamara, wonders what has gotten into him. Dulcamara, unaware that Adina is the object of Nemorino's affection, tells her the story of the smitten bumpkin who spent his last penny on the elixir, and even signed his life away, joining the army for money to get more, so desperate was he to win the love of some unnamed cruel beauty. Adina immediately realizes Nemorino's sincerity, and regrets teasing him. She falls for Nemorino, basking in the sincerity of his love. Dulcamara interprets this behavior as some sort of condition requiring a cure by one of his potions.

They depart. Nemorino appears alone, pensive, reflecting on a tear he saw in Adina's eye when he was ignoring her earlier. Based on that tear alone, he is sincerely convinced that Adina loves him. She enters, asking him why he has chosen to join the army and leave the town. When Nemorino says he's seeking a better life, Adina responds by telling him he is loved, and that she has purchased his military contract from Sergeant Belcore. She offers the cancelled contract to Nemorino, asking him to take it. He is free now. She says, however, that if he stays, he will no longer be sad. As he takes the contract Adina turns to leave. Nemorino believes she is abandoning him and flies in to a desperate fit, vowing that if he is not loved, if the elixir has not worked, and the Doctor has fooled him, then he might as well go off and die a soldier. Adina stops him and confesses that she loves him. Nemorino is ecstatic. Adina begs him to forgive her for teasing him. He does so with a kiss. The sergeant returns, seeing the two in an embrace. Adina explains that she loves Nemorino. The Sergeant takes the news in stride, noting that there are plenty of other women in the world. Dulcamara, his bags packed, pops out of a doorway, adding that he will happily provide elixir for the Sergeant's next conquest. A crowd has gathered by now, all agreeing that the elixir has done its job as they bid a fond farewell to the doctor.

Recordings[change | edit source]

Year Cast
(Adina, Nemorino, Belcore, Dulcamara)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label[5][6]
1955 Hilde Gueden,
Giuseppe Di Stefano,
Renato Capecchi
Fernando Corena
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli,
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Decca
Cat: 443542
1967 Mirella Freni,
Nicolai Gedda,
Mario Sereni,
Renato Capecchi
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli,
Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD: EMI
Cat: CMS 7 69897 2
1970 Joan Sutherland,
Luciano Pavarotti,
Dominic Cossa
Spiro Malas
Richard Bonynge,
English Chamber Orchestra
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
CD: Decca
Cat: 424912-2
1977 Ileana Cotrubas,
Plácido Domingo,
Ingvar Wixell,
Sir Geraint Evans
John Pritchard,
Royal Opera House
Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Sony Masterworks
Cat: 2796-96458-2
1986 Barbara Bonney,
Gösta Winbergh,
Bernd Weikl,
Rolando Panerai
Gabriele Ferro,
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: B000458002
1989 Kathleen Battle,
Luciano Pavarotti,
Leo Nucci,
Enzo Dara
James Levine,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 429744
1996 Alessandra Ruffini,
Vincenzo La Scola,
Roberto Frontiali,
Simone Alaimo
Piergiorgio Morandi,
Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD:Naxos
Cat: 8660045-46
1997 Angela Gheorghiu,
Roberto Alagna,
Roberto Scaltriti,
Simone Alaimo
Evelino Pidò,
Lyon Opera Orchestra and Chorus
CD:Decca
Cat: 455691
2006 Anna Netrebko,
Rolando Villazón,
Leo Nucci,
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
Alfred Eschwé,
Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Virgin Classics/EMI
Cat: 00946 363352 9
2007 Silvia Dalla Benetta,
Raùl Hernández,
Alex Esposito,
Damiano Salerno
Alessandro De Marchi,
Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Dynamic (record label)
Cat. 33577

References[change | edit source]

  1. "Opera Statistics". Operabase. http://operabase.com/top.cgi?lang=en#opera. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  2. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., 1954
  3. "St. James's Theatre" in The Era. 30 December 1866. p. 15.
  4. The Elixir of Love: G.Schimer printed 1990/91 p.x
  5. L'elisir d'amore discography from Stanford website
  6. Recordings of Elixir on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk

Other websites[change | edit source]