Ah, the evocative art of flirtation. Especially in fiction – and quite often in real life – the grace of amour is quite a capricious mistress. She must be coddled, then given time to cool – then swept off her feet at the exact moment of necessity. Such strict and intellectually-challenging instructions are not for the faint of heart or mind (or anyone of human capacity, at the very least)– but are certainly rife for good opera.
Explored by Gaetano Donizetti in his comedy, “L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love),” the notion lends belief to the time-honored belief that the easily-attainable is often not preferred – though to the characters of this coquettish tale, the lesson comes in the form of a perceived magic elixir.
Taking place in a small village in the Basque Country, it follows the lovelorn peasant Nemorino on his utterly engaging quest to woo the highly educated and sought-after Adina. All the while, the lady of his affections is courted by Sergeant Belcore. To remedy this awful situation, the persistent peasant seeks the aid of one Dr. Dulcamara, a local charlatan masquerading as the inventor of a wondrous elixir containing the ability to make the object of one’s desire fall in love with its consumer. In reality, however, this coveted contraption is simply a glass of Bordeaux.
But according to Donizetti, it is precisely that which we cannot have that holds the most appeal – and if Nemorino ceases his open adoration of his object’s desire, they perhaps she may notice him, after all.
With effortless allure and swagger, the hitherto bumbling protagonist captures the coveted Adina’s heart, just as the respective players at the Martha Cardona Theater, directed by Daniel Cardona, capture that of the audience.
Primarily responsible for that, of course, is the overwhelmingly talented Nathan Carlisle, who lent the vocals most accustomed to the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera to the role of Nemirino. At once expressive and pleasantly engaging, the tremendous tenor’s performance held an air of coy romance – playful, yet nervous, and quite remarkably pure – the very essence of the innocence of love. Combined with a breathtakingly beautiful voice, Carlisle’s performance was nothing short of enchanting and mesmerizing.
His leading lady (Jennifer Moore), however, was absolutely nothing to frown at, either. Possessing an exquisitely bright voice, the petite soprano displayed an air of charisma and poise that was more than worthy of the station of the celebrated young Adina.
A comedic delight came in the form of William Roberts as Dr. Dulcamara, as the bass’ excelled in the art of physical comedy, playfully piqued at points preposterous and proper. Himself surprised at the apparent success of his flawed concoction, the face behind Dulcamara’s baffled mask was a true asset to any evening of opera.
Perhaps made more stunning by it scenery, the opera was performed at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn Heights – a decidedly expansive establishment blessed with heavenly acoustics.
Combined, the serene and stunning sounds of its talented vocalists, astounding surroundings and marvelous direction, the evening tapered to a sentiment akin to one expressed by Adina: perhaps the most treasured of all gifts is one that was there all along – the joy of song.