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BWW Reviews: OTSL's ELIXIR OF LOVE is intoxicating!

June 3
6:00 2014

Mr. Barbera meets a beautiful match in Susannah Biller, who sings Adina. She, too, is so very right for her role. Vocally lithe, she gracefully masters all those bel canto cadenzas. And when their two voices blend together it is utter musical bliss.

Tim Mix brings a rich and powerful baritone to the role of Belcore, the recruiting sergeant, and he is a gifted comic. His Belcore is the sort of show-off muscle-man who, were they on the beach, would kick sand in poor Nemorino's face. With a splendid auburn beard and sideburns (which are, of course, a little anachronistic) he looks very like George Bernard Shaw performing as some miles gloriosus, the "braggart warrior."

Dr. Dulcamara, the charlatan snake-oil salesman, is a show-stopping role, and bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi does glorious work in it; he's wonderfully over-the- top. The doctor arrives on an antique motorcycle--complete with sidecar. In his flamboyant striped purple frock coat, tangerine vest and gray spats he is surely part Wizard of Oz; his chaotic mad-scientist gray hair is very like that of Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. And can he sing! He can patter-sing with the best; in separate duets we relish Barbera's lyrical tenor or Miss Biller's merrily tripping soprano above the basis of Carfizzi's rapid-fire patter.

Last but not least in the cast is the strikingly beautiful Leela Subramaniam, who brings her lovely soprano voice to the role of Giannetta. She made me wish that that role were much larger.

The chorus work is excellent, the stage overflows with rich music and energy.

Costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are beautifully period. Miss Biller's floating azure dress is especially graceful, and the antique football team which Sgt. Belcore recruits en masse is a delight.

The set, by Allen Moyer, gives the ideal atmosphere for this nostalgic comedy. Nemorino's ice-cream truck and Dr. Dulcamara's motorcycle evoke those wonderful old tin toys of that era. But these vehicles pose problems. The truck, though charming, is exceedingly slow to enter--once causing a considerable pause in things. And on this thrust stage the entrance of the motorcycle necessitates opening a great panel in that lovely mural of farmland, and then the cycle has to squeeze very slowly and carefully between the bandstand and the edge of the stage. (I just knew it was going to tip into the audience!) There is a rule that is often ignored in theatres with such a wealth of technical resources: "Just because you can do some scenic effect doesn't mean that you should." And if you can't do it quite perfectly then you probably shouldn't do it.

But these tiny flaws are really like beauty-marks on this ravishing production: they merely amplify the perfection of everything else.

Director Jose Maria Condemi and conductor Stephen Lord and the whole production team should be very proud of this excellentshow. We, the audience, love you for it!

The Elixir of Love continues at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis through June 25.

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Steve Callahan A native Kansan I have a BA (Math and Theatre) and MA (Theatre). I was working on a PhD in Theatre when IBM sniffed my math background and lured me away with money enough to feed my (then two) children. Nevertheless I've been active in theatre all my life--having directed fifty-three productions (everything from opera in Poughkeepsie to Mrozek in Woodstock to musical melodrama in Germany) and I've acted in seventy others. Now that I'm retired I don't have that eight-to-five distraction and can focus a bit more. I've regularly reviewed theatre in St. Louis for KDHX since 1991 and am tickled now to also join BWW.


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