Donizetti’s approach to comic opera is the opposite of Rossini’s. Rossini takes no prisoners. Everybody in his buffa operas has a tenuous connection to sanity reflecting the composers view that the entire world is mad. Donizetti, on the other hand, is more forgiving and offers characters who have redeeming attributes. The difference between the two is that between the manic and the pastoral, the realistic and the make believe. L’Elisir d’Amore, Donizetti’s undoubted comic masterpiece, is both pastoral and make believe.
Matthew Polanzani appeared as Donizetti’s appealing village idiot in this revival of Bartlett Sher’s 2012 production of L’Elisir d’Amore. Any tenor singing Nemorino at the Met must sense the shades of Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Bergonzi, and Pavarotti – all of whom appeared in the role at the Met. Mr Polanzani did not appear apprehensive about the ghosts of his illustrative predecessors as he delivered a finely nuanced portrayal. He has a rich lyric tenor that he uses with great sensitivity. His singing of ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ was very well received by the Mets in house audience. Polanzani’s sound is round and he can shade it to fit the demands of the music The only negative that can be said is that he lacks the charisma that exuded from some of his illustrious antecedents.
The South African soprano Pretty Yende lives up to her name both in appearance and sound. She has a high soprano which she produces with ease and effect. She’s a good actress. Her portrayal of Adina was that of a woman who was really attracted to Nemorino all along, but who wanted to play hard to get before giving in. That he inherited the largest fortune in the neighborhood also didn’t hurt his chances with her.
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo has sung sporadically at the Met since 1994. His singing is competent, but he didn’t make much of the comedic side of Dr Dulcamara. A really effective buffo, like the late Fernando Corena, can steal the show leaving the tenor little to do save look dopey and sing ‘Una furtiva lagrima’. Baritone Davide Luciano made his house debut as Belcore in this run of L’Elisir. There’s not a whole lot you can do with this part, but he did the best that can be made of this role. The Met’s staging brought out the nasty side of Belcore as he beat up poor Nemorino as did some of his men. Nemorino is such a harmless and nice guy that I was tempted to call up Adult Protective Service during the end of the first act.
Venezuelan conductor Domingo Hindoyan also made his Met debut with this run of Donizetti’s opera. He kept everybody together. It’s hard to judge his ability from this score.
Sher’s staging is rather bland. It’s not much different from what you’d see at a respectable provincial Italian theater. That the performance was a success was mainly due to the singing and acting of Polanzani and Yende. Worth going to the encore show if you missed today’s performance.
Metropolitan Opera House
February 10, 2018
Gaetano Donizetti–Felice Romani
Dr. Dulcamara………..Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Recitative Accompanist: Jonathan C. Kelly
Set Designer…………Michael Yeargan
Costume Designer……..Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer…….Jennifer Tipton
Stage Director……….Gina Lapinski