Miami Lyric Opera delivers a delightful “Elixir”

By Lawrence Budmen

Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" will be repeated Saturday night at the Colony Theater.

Miami Lyric Opera lit up the stage of the Colony Theater in Miami Beach Thursday night with an enchanting production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love). Despite the makeshift sets and costumes, Raffaele Cardone’s intrepid company put across the fast-paced wit of this quintessential opera buffa and a strong cast assayed Donizetti’s bel canto melodies delightfully.

Set in a rural Italian village, this comedic love triangle finds a country bumpkin and  pompous army sergeant vying for the hand of a wealthy landowner. With the assistance of a traveling quack who peddles his unique love elixir — actually cheap Bordeaux wine — true love wins out as the peasant Nemorino and the heiress Adina are united. This simple scenario is brought to life through a series of bubbly arias, duets and ensembles, the occasional plaintive moments all the more powerful when juxtaposed against the frothy musical ambience.

Donizetti’s  writing requires graceful vocalism and pinpoint comic timing and the MLO cast delivered the goods. As the fickle Adina, Jessica Slatkoff Arteaga was a charismatic heroine, her bright timbre and comedic flair enlivening the ensembles. In the final scene, her confession of love for Nemorino was poignant, sung with beguiling sweetness.

David Pereira was initially stiff as the lovesick Nemorino but managed a hilarious drunken scene as the bogus elixir took effect. His attractive lyric tenor is the authentic article. Pereira’s aristocratic phrasing and clear, ringing high notes did full justice to Una furtiva lagrima, the aria proving all the more effective bereft of the vocal overkill of some big-name tenors.

Daniel Snodgrass was the very embodiment of the proverbial tin soldier as Sergeant Belcore.  Only some weakness in the low register marred the manly warmth of his baritone. Snodgrass’s deft interplay with Arteaga and Pereira kept the show funny and brisk, the suggestion of anger and envy at his rival effectively conveyed.

As the lovable huckster Dr. Dulcamara, Oscar Martinez gave a veritable textbook lesson in buffo style and timing. From his first entrance, Martinez commanded the stage like the ringmaster of a country circus, prancing and dancing with the flair of a born entertainer. Martinez’s sizable baritone is evenly produced, the low notes spot on. He tossed off the rapid-fire patter with suave precision and  his ironic asides radiated wearied amazement . Daisy Su filled Giannetta’s brief lines with lovely lyric soprano tone.

Pablo Hernandez’s chorus projected the villagers’ songs robustly. In spite of some raucous orchestral playing, Beverly Coulter conducted an incisive reading of this colorful score, displaying a strong affinity for the melodic arc of Donizetti’s inspired tunes and keeping the pace light and breezy.

The company seems to have solved the problems with its supertitle system that have plagued recent productions. The titles are now projected on a screen above the stage, rather than the proscenium, and appeared clear and in sync with the music and text, allowing the audience to follow the action of the opera more closely and attentively.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats L’elisir d’amore 8 p.m. Saturday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach with Susana Diaz taking over the role of Adina. 305-674-1040

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Fri Aug 12, 2011
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