Miami Lyric Opera serves up delightful Donizetti

By Lawrence Budmen

Nicholas Huff portrayed Nemorino in Miami Lyric Opera’s production of L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) Sunday in Cutler Bay.

[Note: Technical issues delayed the posting of this review.]

Few operas can lift one’s spirits and bring a smile to the face as much as L’elisir d’amore. Miami Lyric Opera’s diverting production of Donizetti’s romantic comedy, seen Sunday afternoon at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, was greatly entertaining and true to the score’s bel canto spirit.

The tenor role of the kind-hearted country bumpkin Nemorino is pivotal to any presentation of this opera and artistic director Raffaele Cardone snared a young singer of tremendous promise for the part. 

Nicholas Huff, a former member of Florida Grand Opera’s studio artists program, has the melting lyric timbre, beguiling stage personality and theatrical aplomb to dominate the stage. (Last month Huff gave a striking performance as Mitch in FGO’s staging of Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.) In Nemorinto’s opening aria “Quanto è bella,” his top notes sounded tentative but his voice quickly hit its stride and Huff offered secure, richly burnished vocalism throughout the afternoon. An authentic bel canto singer, Huff phrased elegantly and avoided forcing at the voice’s upper and lower extremes.

In Nemorino’s drunken scene (after swallowing the cheap Bordeaux the charlatan Dr. Dulcamara has sold him as a love potion) Huff was hilarious in his comic timing and interplay with the Norina of Gina Galati. Nemorino’s plea to Norina was voiced in tones of anguish and fervor. “Una furtiva lagrima” is the opera’s most famous aria and Huff floated the melodic line with restraint before rising to free, ringing high tones that stopped the show. This young singer has great potential and one looks forward to hearing him in the future.

Galati’s light soubrette voice is a natural for Norina. She sang the character’s final aria, as the wealthy landowner finally admitted her love for Nemorino, with natural directness. Her bright sound blended winningly in duet with Huff. Only some shrillness at the top undercut an otherwise delightful characterization. 

Gabriel Menendez’s medium-size baritone and arrogantly snobbish demeanor were a perfect fit for the pompous soldier Belcore. Menendez and Huff played off each other effectively.

Veteran baritone Oscar Martinez carried off Dulcamara’s buffo patter with verve and even managed to make the quack lovable and sympathetic. His scene with Galati was buoyantly sung, with their timbres well matched. Paola Elorza’s pretty, petite vocalism ably filled Giannetta’s interjections.

Beverly Coulter’s lively tempos and sense of idiomatic Italian style kept the pace lively. After some initial wind lapses, she drew well articulated, vivacious playing from the orchestra. The chorus under Pablo Hernandez was in good form, singing with robust enthusiasm.

With picturesque, unaccredited period sets and costumes, Cardone’s production was finely detailed, with the choral scenes well integrated into the scenario. The principals’ comic highjinks put across the humor without being overdone. This Elixir of Love was the perfect operatic potion to chase the blues away.

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Wed Feb 23, 2022
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