Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Expecting L'Elisir d'Bore – Got L'Elisir d’Like: Met in HD

Maybe it’s because I read all the lukewarm reviews of opening night and was prepared for the worst; maybe it’s because I was excited by finally getting to see my first Met in HD broadcast; or maybe it’s because it just wasn't all that bad.

I can see where maybe this production was a bit of a letdown for a gala opening night. L’Elisir  d'Amore is a pretty light-weight, almost fluffy opera—light enough to be a good gateway opera for newbies; but perhaps it’s just not serious enough for the operatti on opening night. And I can see where the promise of a “new production” would raise hopes, but remember this is Peter (bore ‘em or piss ‘em off) Gelb we’re talking about. But I liked it anyway. And Dad did too. (We compared notes Saturday evening.)

I was prepared for Anna Netrebko’s darker voice as Adina, and I expected Mariusz Kwiecien to sing well, though the part seemed almost too low for him. But it was nice to see Belcore look good enough to be a possible threat as a rival to Nemorino. Speaking of, I was surprised and pleased by the warmth and relative agility of Matthew Polenzani’s voice.

The lady sitting near me (we had the obligatory personal-space seat between us) commented that Ambrogio Maestri would be a good Falstaff—which I understand is in his repertoire—and I agreed. He was a cartoonish, over-the-top Dulcamara; but really, is that character supposed to be believable anyway? Even Anne-Carolyn Bird as Gianetta (they couldn’t fit her name on the cast sheet?) sounded pretty darned good. And the chorus did what the Met chorus does: look awkward but sing prettily.

I was glad to see Nemorino's “bumpkin-ness” downplayed. And I enjoyed the indication right at the start that there was already a pretty strong attraction between Adina and Nemorino, with an almost adolescent bit of “I like him so I am going to tease him and pretend I don’t like him” interplay. 

Adina came across well, though I she could have been better with a little more specific direction. I still didn’t love the top hat, but I got it. When she wears it, she’s in charge; when she isn’t wearing it, she is more relaxed; and when she lets her hair down for the final scene, she is vulnerable:

I think maybe I was most surprised by the really long scene change in act 1. Nowadays, I expect marvelous stagecraft that makes these things happen quickly. At the same time, I enjoy seeing the backstage stuff: watching them move the scenery around and seeing the singers in moments of repose.

Speaking of backstage, maybe I actually am a bit of an opera snob, but I find the backstage interviews almost insulting. They might do better to have a real news person back there rather than an opera singer (whom I love) reading a teleprompter—speaking of fluffy! I guess one could argue that you’re not going to get a scintillating interview from someone who just came offstage from singing and needs to get ready to go back (or from the guy who cooks the spaghetti.) When you think about it, those singers are pretty good sports for agreeing to the interview at all (though maybe it’s in their contracts?)

At the very least, after my first Met in HD experience, I am ready to go back. All in all, I didn't necessarily love this elixir, but I liked it—very much.


  1. I was surprised by the clunky scene change in Act 1. One really doesn't expect that in a new production though, to be fair, it wasn't nearly as bad as the COC's Il Trovatore where the scene changes were frequent and interminable. Ironically in marked contrast to Alden's Fledermaus which was really slick from that point of view.

  2. There must be a way to do it more smoothly; and if not, I'd have been tempted to stick some extra music in there (pause for purists to gasp in horror)as a nice little interlude. On the other hand, if Donizetti had expected an elaborate scene change, he probably would have written an intermezzo or something.

    1. In Donizetti's day they did it with flats from the fly loft. They could do a change in seconds.

  3. I haven't seen the broadcast but if it becomes available on a commercial DVD I wouldn't hesitate to buy even though I have the Vienna State Opera version with Villazon. I was somewhat indifferent to Anna initially but her concert with her husband and Kaufmann from Germany last year was great and my passion was sealed with a telecast from ZDF when she sang Meine Lippen; anyone that is having that much fun on stage is a delight. I do wish she would make more effort with the text (I can't imagine her singing Elsa but she is quoted as a future role!) but one can't have everything.

    1. Hi David,
      This is the Met's Cinema broadcasts, Live in HD

      I don't know your location, but after they are broadcast live, there's usually another "encore" broadcast:

      Here are those dates for this opera, and below is the link for the whole season schedule.

      Donizetti’s L'Elisir d'Amore–New Production

      U.S. Encore:
      Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm local time

      Canada Encores:
      Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm local time Monday, November 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm local time


  4. I see you commented on the hat. I couldn’t stand it but glad you came up with a good explanation for it. All I think about is this, https://youtu.be/6NXnxTNIWkc. Ray

    1. It seemed even more gratuitous/superfluous this time around. I am not sure Pretty Yende felt comfortable with it. That said, I found her MUCH more appealing than AN as Adina (and I really do like AN).

  5. You’re almost certainly correct about interviews being in the contract. But still there is a cultural difference between sports and opera interviews, https://youtu.be/AcegYF_Ti78 Ray

    1. Now that I've seen a lot more of these broadcasts, I get the interviews, and--depending on who's hosting--they can be fun and informative. I thought Susanna did a good job of pivoting when Lidia was baffled by one of her questions (I still could live without the food interviews--I want to know more about the music, the singing, the staging.)


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