The Elixir of Love

HeaderPittsburgh Opera gave the first of four performances of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love last night, and a large audience seemed to be so taken with the “potion” offered that the applause was loud and lingering, and everyone seemed reluctant to go home. They had every reason to feel this way, for the production is colorful and highly entertaining, and superb sights and sounds had been coming at them from every direction for about two and a half hours. With each successive offering this season, Pittsburgh Opera has managed to top the preceding one – which is saying much – and last night was no exception. Lovers of opera will want to take advantage of savoring this final work of the 2017-’18 season, and those who might be new to the art form couldn’t pick a better starting point than this production.

A gaggle of tipsy women, led by Giannetta (Shannon Jennings), learn that Nemorino has just inherited a fortune from his recently-deceased uncle, and see an opportunity
A gaggle of tipsy women, led by Giannetta (Shannon Jennings), learn that Nemorino has just inherited a fortune from his recently-deceased uncle, and see an opportunity

The photographs included here can only hint at the vividly colorful and lively spectacle that unfolded; it truly has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated. From the conductor and wonderful orchestra to the excellent soloists and chorus – all concerned out front and behind the scenes earned superlatives. The greeting Christian Capocaccia received when he appeared at the podium made it obvious that he was well remembered for his work with La Traviata in 2016. Singers new to Pittsburgh (or not heard here in a number of years) made excellent impressions. The set and costume designer, lighting director, choreographer – each and every one contributed to the success of the evening.

Mr. Capocaccia displayed a thorough command of Donizetti’s engaging score, and the instrumentalists responded to his baton throughout the evening with great precision, making the subtle nuances which abound in the music count for as much as the frequent grand climaxes. The chorus, under Mark Trawka, were a much welcomed feature of the evening, since they have not figured to any large extent in any of the other operas given this season. They were a tuneful, comic and well choreographed group of singers, and their voices and antics played a major part in the fun of the evening.

Belcore (Zachary Nelson) whispers sweet nothings into Adina’s ear (Ekaterina Siurina)
Belcore (Zachary Nelson) whispers sweet nothings into Adina’s ear (Ekaterina Siurina)

Ekaterina Siurina, in the role of Adina, appeared for the first time with the company, and made a remarkably fine first impression. Her soprano is of a pure and silvery quality, carries well over the most massive ensembles, and possesses a limpid loveliness that suits her role perfectly. She has an exotic beauty, and she glided gracefully about the stage in a delightful manner. Tenor Dimitri Pittas, last heard as Rodolfo in La Bohème in 2003, returned as Nemorino (the “little nobody”), and he, too, sings effortlessly and made the most of the comic and tender elements of his role. He was at his best in the first of the two acts, but the audience was quite impressed later in the evening with his delivery of “Una furtiva lagrima” (“A furtive tear”), probably the best known aria from the opera.

Giannetta (Shannon Jennings) and other village women fawn over Nemorino (Dmitri Pittas), who assumes that Dulcamara’s Elixir of Love is working
Giannetta (Shannon Jennings) and other village women fawn over Nemorino (Dmitri Pittas), who assumes that Dulcamara’s Elixir of Love is working

Zachary Nelson, as Belcore, Nemorino’s rival for Adina’s affection, was another newcomer, and sang with a strong baritone of warm, rich quality, and his acting made the most of the strutting, comedic elements of the role. Paolo Pecchioli, bass, returned to the local stage as the swindling “snake oil” peddler, Dr. Dulcamara, and made his entrance and exit in a very cleverly staged hot air balloon. He was heard to best advantage in the second act, and acted the role with acrobatic agility, while his young, silent but lively assistant, Simon Nigam, probably took home a tiny piece of every heart in the audience.

The crowd bids Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli) and his assistant (Simon Nigam) a fond farewell
The crowd bids Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli) and his assistant (Simon Nigam) a fond farewell

Shannon Jennings, as Adina’s friend Giannetta, proved the old saying about “there are no small parts” in grand fashion. Her flair for comedy is excellent, and she sang the too short passages given to the role with a voice of much beauty. Her second act scene with the partied out chorus women was one of the most engaging features in an evening that was packed with them.

Only three performances remain, and shouldn’t be missed. For tickets, full production details and more, visit Pittsburgh Opera.

“The Artistic Team” for The Elixir of Love

Conductor, Christian Capocaccia; Stage Director, Daniel Slater; Set & Costume Designer, Robert Innes Hopkins; Lighting Designer, Simon Mills; Wig & Make-up Designer, James Geier; Choreographer, Timothy Claydon; Assistant Conductor, Glenn Lewis; Chorus Master, Mark Trawka; Associate Coach/Pianist, James Lesniak; Guest Pianist, Luis Hernandez; Assistant Director, Frances Rabalais; Stage Manager, Cindy Knight

David Bachman Photography