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BWW Review: Audience LOVE-fest for Grigolo in Met's Cartoon-y ELISIR D'AMORE

Vittorio Grigolo as Nemorino and Aleksandra Kurzak as Adina.
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Vittorio Grigolo's fans were out in force last week when he took on the star-tenor role of Nemorino in Donizetti's L'ELISIR D'AMORE (THE ELIXIR OF LOVE) at the Met and it seemed like they'd taken a potion of their own.

As the country boy in love above his "station" with the wealthy and beautiful Adina, Grigolo was in good form--ringing high notes, shy demeanor (when he wasn't acting drunk from too much cheap-wine-disguised-as-potion) and easy charm. He's not one who you look for to bring a great deal of finesse to a role but, oh well, that's his persona, and he certainly has it down pat. He put plenty of schmaltz into his big aria, "Una furtive lagrima," but I much prefer him when he has to dial it back a notch--as he did wonderfully with Damrau in MANON last year and, hopefully, with her again ROMEO ET JULIETTE next season--but the audience around me seemed smitten with his endearing qualities.

Grigolo outshone the rest of the major players in the cast by half in the Bartlett Sher production (directed now by Louisa Miller) that seems half-Belgian painter Pieter Breugel and half cartoon, with set design by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. His Adina--the country girl who sets men on fire--was soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, who is an appealing performer and had a lovely voice...when she wasn't pushing it too hard. Unfortunately, she did that quite a lot and, consequently, the sweetness left and her voice took on a hard edge that wasn't quite so appealing in this bel canto (beautiful singing?) role.

As Dr. Dulcamara--the charlatan who brings the love potion to town--baritone Alessandro Corbelli was an expert farceur and was quite flexible and adept at bringing his patter songs to life; but, for me, he lacked some of the vocal heft to really sell his arias. Soprano Ying Fang, as Giannetta (Adina's pal), eased her way into the role and used her lovely voice proficiently; she's a young singer to watch. I've seen plenty of Sergeant Belcores (the military man with an eye for Adina) over the years, but none as brazenly unappealing as baritone Adam Plachetka in this production, with his overdone swagger and obnoxious demeanor; he also took long into the second act to warm up, which did no favors to the score.

Conductor Enrique Mazzola led a lively account of the incredibly varied and melodious score from the Met orchestra and, as usual, the Met chorus, under Donald Palumbo, did itself proud.

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From This Author Richard Sasanow