L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) is one of the most popular Donizetti operas and comic operas there is. The librettist Felice Romani made use of Eugene Scribe’s libretto to Daniel Auber’s opera Le philtre (1831) and the action is a comic paraphrase of the legend of Tristan and Isolde, which the heroine of Donizetti’s opera, the beautiful and wealthy Adina, reads to her friend. The bashful young peasant Nemorino is in love with Adina yet his feelings are unrequited. The situation is further compounded by the arrival of a group of soldiers commanded by Sergeant Belcore, who begins to woo Adina. A travelling “snake-oil” salesman appears and offers a wonder potion that is able to arouse affection in every woman.
Nemorino duly buys it and gulps it down, yet the bottle only contains wine. Nemorino becomes inebriated and musters up the courage to address Adina. She, however, out of defiance announces her decision to marry Belcore. So as to win Adina, Nemorino wants to buy another bottle of the “elixir” but he does not have any more money. He therefore enlists in the army and purchases another potion from his soldier’s pay. Meanwhile, the news has spread in the village that Nemorino has inherited a large fortune from his deceased uncle and he becomes the centre of attention of all the local maidens. Adina starts to get jealous and when she learns that Nemorino has enlisted because of her she declares her love for him. The jocose comedy abounds in splendid arias, with the most celebrated of them, Nemorino’s “Una furtiva lagrima”, being part of the repertoire of all world-acclaimed tenors. The opera affords rewarding dramatic and vocal opportunities for the performers and is a highly attractive title for audiences.