PALM BEACH OPERA
L’ELISIR D’AMORE (2-22-08) 
PALM BEACH SHINES WITH DONIZETTI GEM


By Lawrence Budmen

Palm Beach Opera’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s 1832 opera buffa L’Elisir d’ Amore is appropriately lively fare for a holiday week. Staging a frothy production with a quartet of beguiling voices and energetic musical direction, the company has skillfully traversed the artistic duality of high art and great entertainment.

The essence of Felice Romani’s libretto is boy meets girl; boy loses girl to a pompous military officer; boy gets girl with the help of an inheritance and a bogus elixir, offered by a traveling charlatan. Donizetti graced this comic romance with a series of memorable arias, sparkling ensembles and witty comedic patter. 

At Friday’s opening performance at the Kravis Center, artistic director Bruno Aprea’s zesty, high spirited conducting kept the mood bright and airy. Aprea’s masterful shaping of b el canto lines and the elegant purity of the wind solos were glowing reminders that this conductor and orchestra are top of the line among South Florida’s operatic ensembles. 

The picturesque village square set by Constantinos Kritikos (from the New Orleans Opera) and stylized lighting by David Gano offered a lovely, candy store mise-en-scene.

Director Mario Corradi’s sight gags were never exaggerated. He even managed to make the English surtitles part of the show as the singers repeatedly looked at them to remember names and lines. 

Soprano Olga Makarina has appeared at such major venues as St. Petersburg’s Kirov Opera, the Rome Opera and the Met. She portrayed the wealthy land owner Adina as part shrewish ingénue, part sly coquette. A charming coloratura soubrette, Makarina dashed off sparkling trills and ornaments with dizzying brilliance.

Bruce Sledge cut an engaging figure as the country bumpkin Nemorino. His soft, sweetly articulated version of the famous aria Una furtiva lagrima brought down the house. Despite some intonation problems in the first act, Sledge’s lyric tenor blended gracefully in the ensembles. 

Matteo Peirone was a scene stealer as the traveling quack Dr. Dulcamara. A stalwart basso-buffo who can toss off patter at lightning speed, Peirone is a real showman with impeccable comic timing. 

Bruno Taddia’s virile baritone and theatrical verve made the tin soldier Sergeant Belcore more than a cardboard character. 

L’Elisir d’Amore is a wonderfully sweet confection that Palm Beach Opera has baked to near perfection. 


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