BWW Reviews: Best Date Night Ever: San Diego Opera's ELIXIR OF LOVE
Once more, with feeling! This year's SDO Valentine offering, Donizetti's 1832 comic masterpiece, Elixir of Love, echoed last season's midwinter love fest, the composer's Daughter of the Regiment. Both operas inspire warm sentiments that evoke love's passions. After last night's performance, I went home with Elixir's nonstop romantic tunes dancing in my head like auditory sugarplums.
No wonder Elixir, the most widely performed opera of its day, was a breakout hit for Donizetti. That the composer, with the help of poet Felice Romani's clever libretto, could complete such a brilliant work in only one month, is a tribute to his genius: the nineteenth century equivalent of Fast and Furious meets Gone in Sixty Seconds - or in this case, thirty days. Comedy is about pain, and this "dramedy" delivers in generous amounts the amorous suffering of its sympathetic hero Nemorino without over-exaggerating its melodramatic pathos.
In his San Diego Opera debut, tenor Giuseppe Filianoti's lovable Nemorino fit squarely into the classic portrayal of the underdog romantic hero. His ability to bare his feelings, and the contrast between his naïveté and his love interest Adina's sophistication, were well played. As with Donizetti's Daughter, the expectations to deliver in a celebrated and notoriously difficult aria (in this case Una Furtiva Lagrima), and the pressure of being compared with history's greatest tenors, including Filianoti's mentor Alfredo Kraus, were intense. Filianoti sounded stressed in the aria but came through valiantly, a testament to his background of performing at world-renowned houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Berlin, Vienna and Bayerische Staatsopers, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. One hopes as the run progresses he will be able to relax more into both the role and the aria.
As the spirited, shrewdly intelligent Adina, Tatiana Lisnic sparkled in her SDO debut. The young Moldavian soprano showed a canny understanding of her character's strengths and weaknesses, flipping between sharp-witted shrewish young woman and love-struck pushover at any given moment. But her most impressive strength was her gorgeous voice, perfectly suited to the demands of the role, and her ability to maintain absolute control and consistency from the stunning high C's down to the chest tones of the lower register. Her experience in singing Mozart was shown to full advantage as she spun out lustrous tones and handled the role's frequent fioratura with seeming ease; and she succeeded at staying in perfect sync vocally and dramatically with her tenor costar. No doubt her appearances, her first in San Diego and in North America, and in Paris and Vienna, will snowball into a major career in the very near future.
Those who were delighted with American bass Kevin Burdette's Company debut last season as Sgt. Sulpice in Daughter of the Regiment must have been thrilled with his performance as Dr. Dulcamara. Unlike the typical Falstaff-like buffoon often seen in this role, Burdette was all spindly limbs and angularity: an operatic Jim Carrey, both in looks and in comic genius, whose pratfalls were done with convincing ease. His versatile range of roles both traditional and contemporary, and his experience in opera companies such as the Met, Santa Fe, and Teatro Colòn in Buenos Aires, served him well, as he negotiated the complex range of vocal and dramatic demands without overplaying the character's boisterousness and tomfoolery.