Miami Lyric Opera serves up an enjoyable “Elixir”
Donizetti’s opera buffa L’elisir d’amore is a delightful confection. This tale of country boy meets girl, loses girl to a pompous military officer and gets reunited with his true love through the machinations of a snake-oil salesman is chock full of high-spirited tunes and arias that touch the heart with melodic poignancy.
Miami Lyric Opera’s production of this bel canto masterpiece, which opened on Saturday night at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater, is less than perfect. Still, like many of intrepid director Raffaele Cardone’s presentations, the show gets most of the big elements right. Musically and dramatically, this elixir of love works its spell.
As the wealthy landowner Adina, Joy Berta is a perky soubrette with the kind of lightweight soprano that used to populate operatic stages. (Think Laurel Hurley or Sonia Ghazarian who regularly performed this repertoire at major houses.) Initially Berta’s voice was not always audible when the orchestra played at full volume but her projection improved as the opera progressed. She acted the hard-to-get, at times shrewish heroine with deft theatrical instincts. Berta’s attractive timbre and brightly accurate coloratura turned Adina’s final declaration of love and concern for the country boy Nemorino into one of the high points of the evening.
David Pereira was more comic foil than passionate lover as Nemorino. He staggered around the set hilariously after consuming a super dose of the bogus elixir. Pereira, who also played the lovelorn country bumpkin in MLO’s 2011 production of Elixir, spun “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara” with dulcet softness but his high notes had plenty of ring. He brought understated lyricism to “Una furtiva lagrima” but could thunder away impressively when he told Adina he would rather die as a soldier than live without her love.
As the lovable con man Dulcamara, who markets cheap Bordeaux as a love potion, Alexander Adams-Leytes had the biggest voice on stage and spun deft comedic patter at rapid speed with verve. He pranced and danced about the stage like a born vaudevillian. While his sound is more baritonal than buffo bass, Adams-Leytes easily encompassed the role’s low notes. His timbre blended seamlessly with Berta’s sweet tones in the barcarolle “Io son noco e tu sei belia” as they danced with the flair of music theater veterans. One could almost believe him when he peddled the elixir to everyone as the lovers were united at the final curtain.
Daniel Snodgrass was the very model of a steadfast tin soldier as Belcore and his troops’ out-of-step marching was right out of the Gilbert and Sullivan playbook. Except for some throatiness in the lower register, Snodgrass’ baritone was firm and steady and he brought tons of zest to his duets with Berta and Pereira.
The soprano Daisy Su is invariably a scene stealer in MLO productions, no matter how small the role, and she did so here again. Her supple sound and pointed vocal coloring turned Giannetta’s narrative about Nemorino’s newly inherited wealth from his deceased uncle into a fetching cameo.
With only one orchestral rehearsal, the pit ensemble could sound raucous and unsteady at times but conductor Beverly Coulter kept the score bubbly and high spirited. Coulter did a particularly fine job of coordinating the big ensemble that concludes the opera’s second scene, the voices well balanced.
There was one major opening-night glitch when the set change between scenes was not yet ready, necessitating the conductor and orchestra to stop. Otherwise, Cardone’s production was consistently funny and inventive without descending to sitcom clichés or updated gimmicks. Picturesque sets from the venerable Sormani/Stivanello company were a cut above previous backdrops in MLO productions. The audience’s continual laughter indicated that this L’Elisir hit its mark.
Miami Lyric Opera repeats L’Elisir d’Amore 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. colonytheatremiamibeach.com; 305-674-1040.
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Sun Apr 10, 2016
at 2:55 pm