[Met Performance] CID:132040

L'Elisir d'Amore
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, November 28, 1941

Debut : Mona Paulee

L'Elisir d'Amore (55)
Gaetano Donizetti | Felice Romani
Bidú Sayão

Bruno Landi

Frank Valentino

Dr. Dulcamara
Salvatore Baccaloni

Mona Paulee [Debut]

Ettore Panizza

Désiré Defrère

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

L'Elisir d'Amore received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

'L'Elisir d'Amore' Revived at Metropolitan

Late as L'Elisir d'Amore was reaching the Metropolitan - Conried first presented it there on Jan. 23, 1904 - New York's experience with the work dates back to the early 1840's. when it was given at Palmo's Opera House. Members of the company which first brought the opera to Manhattan included the father and mother of Adelina Patti, the one a tenor, the other a soprano. The American premiere seems to have taken place at New Orleans, where it was sung at the French Opera House on March 30, 1842, a little less than ten years after the world premiere at the Teatro Della Canobbiana, Milan, May 12, 1832. "L'Elisir" was the thirty-sixth of Donizetti's sixty-six operas, and was staged three years before "Lucia," eight before "La Fille du Regiment" and eleven before "Don Pasquale." It is said that "Una furtiva lagrinia" was an after-thought - a stray piece of chamber music converted into an operatic romanza - and that Donizetti's librettist, Felice Romani, protested that it was out of place in a work of humorous character.

But Donizetti did not write consistently in the style of opera buffa in either "L'Elisir d'Amore" or "Don Pasquale," much less in "La Fille du Regiment," which conforms to French models more than to Italian. There is a fair amount of patter and bravura in the Rossini manner, but quite as much that is sentimental, even a little that is pathetic, to bring his melodies and his methods in alignment with his serious operas. "L'Elisir" at various points is close to "Lucia." Donizetti, like Bellini, inclined to melodies with a sigh. He had not the whiplash of Rossini. Musically, his humor is less sharply cut.

The laughs depend largely on the stage business. Dulcamara and Nemorino must supply most of them. The quack-doctor is a true buffo figure. Nemorino demands of his portrayer that he make something of a clown of himself and the music is not always of help. The duet, "Obbligato, obbligato" between the bass and the tenor is one of the best instances of the Rossini technique carried over into the comic operas of Donizetti. It is droll in sound, irrespective of any capacity for fun on the part of the singers. There is enough bravura to call for singers of the Rossini style. Like the sentimental melodies, it is manna for the voice.

The choruses of "Elisir d'Amore" remain among the most mellifluous of their kind. Notably, the ensemble just before the close of the second act is Donizetti at something like his best. And Donizetti, it must be remembered, was a master of concerted writing - as witness the sextet of "Lucia." Fausto Cleva had prepared his chorus carefully for this performance, and its vocal contribution was, by and large, superior to that of the principals. At times Mr. Panizza's orchestra was overloud. But that has been a common experience in performances of "L'Elisir." Donizetti did not orchestrate in the Rossini manner. Sometimes he scored with a heavy hand. This complicates the task of the singers in projecting their words so that the fun may be understood.

Both Mr. Panizza and Mr. Defrère must be credited with having prepared the performance with skill and thoroughness. If it palled, this was to be charged to a lack of important voices or vitalizing personalities, though all concerned were competent singers and acceptable in their characterizations. The Dulcamara of Mr. Baccaloni was, as expected, the life of the performance. Though his voice yielded the effect of being in something less than its best condition, there was unction in his singing and incessant drollery in his walk, gestures and play of facial expressions. His lightness on his feet again evoked wonder from those who surveyed his jovial bulk. The basso's success began with his entering "Udite, udite, o rustici" and reached its peak in the duet with Adina that immediately precedes Nemorino's apostrophe to the "furtive tear."

Mr. Landi's smooth and well-managed singing of that air provoked rounds of applause. Throughout the performance, he proved himself an able vocalist, though he favored a whisper of a pianissimo, with sudden contrasts of full tones. The latter were sometimes hard driven. If less amusing than his predecessors, he still gathered his fair share of laughs.

The light voice of Bidu Sayao went particularly well with Mr. Landi's in their several duets. The slender Brazilian soprano projected her tones skillfully and she had no difficulties with the florid passages of her airs. Miss Paulee's debut was an agreeable one. Though heard only a little and then rather remotely, her voice was well used and of good quality.

Mr. Valentino gave a creditable account of Belcore's bravura air, "Come Paride e vezzosa," and sang the part of the swaggering sergeant well thereafter, though with a somewhat monotonous sameness of tone quality, erring on the side of a too-consistent brightness. The production in its entirety was a sufficiently lively and pictorial one, if neither so droll of spirit nor of such opulence of voice as to enable it to rival some performances that are of no very distant memory.

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