Opened June 24, 1995
Theatre: Opera Festival of New Jersey; Director: Dejan Miladinovic; Conductor: Louis Salemno; Stage Manager: Susan Hein; Set Designer: Karen TenEyck; Costume Designer: Helen Rodgers; Lighting Designer: Mitch Dana; Shop: Sysko Scenic
Cast: Richard Byrne (Belcore), Richard Clement (Nemorino), Abbie Furmansky (Adina), William Parcher (Dulcamara), Allison Swensen (Giannetta)
Production Notes: The setting is a rustic garden on a warm summer's day. In the cool green shade sits a stylishly dressed young woman on a garden bench holding a small morocco-bound book; her head is delicately thrown back in laughter. Standing nearby, amid a throng of reclining peasants, is a pretty young girl in a narrow-waisted dress that's a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds. Her eyes are concealed by a dainty black mask, and she holds a hand to her mouth as she tries to contain her mirth. At a distance stands a pale young man dressed all in white baggy pants and shirt and a big drooping ruff. He stares wide-eyed at the lady with the book, longing to talk to her but far too timid to try...
This is "The Elixir of Love" as Watteau would have painted it, with the soulful Nemorino as Pierrot, the merry Giannetta as another Arlecchina and her mistress, Adina, as an innamorata or "young lover." The characters in Donizetti's comic opera, and those in dozens more, can be linked to one of the great comedy traditions of all time, the commedia dell'arte.
A mixture of situation comedy, slapstick and satire--partly improvised, partly rehearsed--the commedia dell'arte was a theater form that sprang up in Renaissance Italy and, like the Renaissance itself, spread from Italy to most of Europe. Here were some of the funniest plots and the most exuberant and striking characters ever to strut and fret their hour upon the world's stages--zanies, lovers, scoundrels and fools. It's small wonder they found their way into the opera house.
Well into the 19th century, commedia exerted a powerful influence on theater of all kinds. The Elixir of Love appeared in 1832 and is in the vein of the sentimental comedies that became popular during the final years of the 18th century. At first thought, it's astonishing that characters nearly 500 years old would still turn up with such frequency, but on reflection the reason is clear: the masks of the commedia dell'arte captured mankind's many faces with a vividness the years can't fade. The old fool, the miser, the pendant, the bragging bully, the scheming underling are in no shorter supply today than ever.
--from the program notes by Peter Wynne, Opera News
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