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L’elisir Delightful!

Colony Theatre, Miami Beach
08/11/2011 -  & August 13*, 2011
Gaetano Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
Jessica Slatkoff Arteaga/Susana Diaz* (Adina), David Pereira (Nemorino), Oscar Martinez (Dulcamara), Daniel Snodgrass (Belcore), Daisy Su (Gianetta), Jesus Gonzalez (Ontario)
Miami Lyric Opera and Chorus, Pablo Hernandez (Chorus Master), Beverly Coulter (Conductor)
Raffaele Cardone (Director), Carlos Arditti (Scenic Design Coordinator), Pamela De Vercelly (Costume Coordinator), Kevin Roman (Lighting Design)

O. Martinez and D. Pereira (Courtesy of Miami Opera)

Miami Lyric Opera cooled off the hot summer by offering the community some much needed music theatre relief with Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. Most people regard this opera as light and easy to pull off. But further examination of the text reveals that it is anything but. Like Così fan tutte, when this comedy is fully realized, there are some potentially frightening possibilities. Adina is a girl on the verge of womanhood who is playing romantic games that could destroy her future and that of the man she truly loves. In a time, unlike today, when divorce was rarely thought of let alone commonplace, this kid’s life could be destroyed because of one careless flirtation.

L’elisir is Adina’s opera. The other characters may have more memorable music and might get more laughs, but it is Adina who gets the action going and whose behavior determines the outcome. This is not such an easy role to conquer as can be seen on many of the market’s video productions. Sometimes Adina is portrayed as a bitch or a saucy, pert little bundle of cuteness; but this is not true. She is a very smart girl who makes the adult realization that she has gone too far and passionately makes amends. It can be a very moving moment when the soprano fully understands the role.

The company’s mission of nurturing new vocal talents went this time to soprano Jessica Slatkoff Arteaga. Probably no bel canto “ina” role is performed as much as Adina, so Miss Arteaga has plenty to be compared to. She conquered the challenge marvelously by making beautiful sounds and fully realizing the nuances of the role. Arteaga made the essential transformation with touching believability exhibiting neither silliness nor savagery. In addition to a beautiful “Della crudele isotta” Arteaga was unusually varied in her duets and ensemble work by creating realistic interactions with the other characters; and her slightly zaftig physique made the character even more adorable. Her reactions to the shenanigans were always on target.

Susanna Diaz was Adina in the second performance. Always in control, this is a singing actress who knows exactly what the role means and gives everything. Diaz makes it very clear in the beginning that she loves Nemorino, so the game of a marriage with Belcore is all the more farcical, just as it should be. Her voice easily cuts through the orchestra and shows tremendous agility throughout. When her range dropped two octaves in her final duet with Nemorino, it was hard to hold back applause. Diaz is a treasure to this company.

Her Nemorino, David Pereira, showed impassioned confidence in his two solos; he was vocally solid in the great duet with Dulcamara and though he often seemed uninvolved dramatically, this is appropriate since Nemorino is pretty much in his own world. His drunk scene is the most believable, funny and ultimately touching one will ever see. Oscar Martinez understands perfectly that without hamming, Dulcamara isn’t what he should be. Martinez’s Dulcamara was deliciously smoked and salted. His duet with Nemorino is, as is often the case, the vocal highlight of the evening; the one with Adina gave the banquet a very rich dessert. Daniel Snodgrass’s Belcore not only hilariously expressed the sergeant’s arrogance but in the end made him sadly pathetic. Every time he reentered, the audience began stirring happily. Gianetta is a smallish role but when delivered with the impish radiance of Daisy Su, the effervescent “Nemorino e' millionario” along with its charming chorus, becomes one of the evening’s happiest surprises. And Su is the rare performer who makes her role noticeable in ensembles.

The orchestra under Beverly Coulter’s direction and the stage direction of the company’s Artistic Director, Raffaele Cardone, were particularly sensitive to this opera’s subtleties. If this score is played too loudly or too quickly and if the action on stage is too broad, the soufflé will never rise and L’elisir like so many works can be a bore. But when the pieces come together like they did here, it’s a winner. It is exciting to see how the company’s regulars have grown. The orchestra is tighter than ever and the chorus not only sings well, they now demonstrate a stage presence that adds much to the performance.

Many may feel that this is Miami Lyric Opera’s highest point since its creation. L’elisir d’amore is an opera that is often lost in a big house. Gestures or facial expressions are easily recognizable in the Colony Theatre, so the creators’ intentions are clearly evident. Miami Lyric Opera got all the pieces right this time.

Jeff Haller



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