Monday, November 15, 2010

The Elixir of Love

In the second act of the University of Michigan University Opera Theatre's production of "The Elixir of Love," the hero Nemorino is convinced by his foil Sergeant Belcore to enlist in the army to earn the money Nemorino needs to buy more elixir of love.

"If it is love that concerns you, you will find it in the army."

Donizetti didn't know about DADT when he first penned the comic opera, but I had to wonder how much of the audience's resulting laughter was anachronistic.

In "The Elixir of Love," the peasant Nemorino pines after the wealthy farm owner Adina, the only villager who has shoes (and, in this production, a sprained ankle--kudos to Anne Jennifer Nash, who toughed it out through the final Sunday matinee). Nemorino laments that all he has to offer are his "sighs," while Adina explains that he should seek love from many people, like she does, so that no one has the power to hurt him. ("There's a modern expression for that," Shak told me during intermission. "He should get over her by getting under someone else.")

Meanwhile, Adina is wooed by Sergeant Belcore, who drops her and flexes his muscles during the courtship. That, coupled with Brian Rosenblum's dulcet, saccharine-sweet voice, complete the sweet-talking, horny frat-boy character. I half-expected him to take a knee and "ice" the traveling salesman. Belcore is pitch-perfect.

Speaking of the traveling salesman, Dr. Dulcamara, purple suit and orange shoes and all, is selling potions from the back of his bright-red pick-up truck. Nemorino has exactly one crown for a love potion? What a coincidence! (Incidentally, the elixir of love is a bottle of Bordeaux. I suspect Sergeant Belcore could have told us that.) It will take effect in a day, Dulcamara promises, so Nemorino ignores Adina when he sees her later that afternoon, confident that he will reap his reward tomorrow. The neglect works like a charm, and Adina begins to fall in love with Nemorino. (I suspect BCB would say that he could have told us that.) To make him jealous, Adina decides to marry Belcore that very day. That's how marriage rolls in small Italian villages.

This is when Nemorino enlists so he has money to buy more elixir to make it work faster, as the traveling salesman explain; Dulcamara would have been the darling of the diet pill industry today. At the same time, the women of the village find out, unbeknownst to Nemorino, that the peasant has inherited a great deal of money from his late uncle, so, when they start following him around, he concludes that the additional elixir is working. When Adina sees the attention her fanboy is getting, she loses it and buys his military contract. (I suspect anyone can tell you that woman who won't date you+neglect+jealousy for other women=woman who will date you. Misogynists.) Stereotype though she may be, Adina is not stupid enough to buy the elixir but decides to win Nemorino's love on her own merits. But she is, strangely, still coy about it, so he sings her this song:

Kyle Tomlin didn't sound exactly like that, but it was still pretty cool. Adina confesses her love, Nemorino decides not to enlist in the army because he finds out they still haven't repealed DADT, and they live happily ever after.

Photo courtesy of The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

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