Monday was not a good day. An early start that wasn't early enough, hit in the eye with a rain drop as soon as I walked out the door, spilled coffee all over myself before getting it from car to desk. And then it went down hill. Imagine my delight when, shortly before I was set to commit atrocities better imagined than described, I got a text message from dear Erika, who had an extra ticket to Tuesday's opening of L'Elisir d'Amore at City Opera. I hate to think of what I might have been capable of had she not intervened!
We all know the story: Nerd boy falls for popular girl, who only realizes she cares for him when he feigns indifference. Junior high school never really ends. This production is a revival of a Jonathan Miller production from 2006 at English National Opera. The story is updated (ho-hum) to take place in a diner in an American southwest town instead of a town square in rural Italy. Made me think of the movie Baghdad Cafe. Adina is the cafe's owner and Nemorino is a grease monkey. I've written before about my feelings on updating opera: In a nutshell, far too often it fails in its purpose of illuminating the universality story by its attention (or worse, inattention) to detail of the new period. In other words, it gets in the way. I would say in this case it doesn't get in the way much. I thought I saw a few dance moves from Grease here or there, and wondered when Olivia Newton John would come on, but I also laughed out loud at some of those touches. The costumes (by Isabella Bywater) and hair and makeup were delightful. The late 50s/early 60s were a great time for women's fashion.
David Lomeli's New York City Opera debut, and I would call it a triumph. His singing is impassioned and free and perfect for Italian bel canto roles. What won me over completely was his portrayal of the simple Nemorino--wearing his heart on his sleeve, showing the excitement and impetuous nature of a 12 year old. He acts the humble but loveable buffoon in such a charming way I wanted to squeeze him 'til his eyes popped out! I can easily see him doing the meatier Donizetti and Bellini roles. His bio-blurb lists Verdi's Duke and Alfredo, as well as Edgardo in Lucia (remind me to rave about the Met's HD recent broadcast soon) on his long list of accomplishments, with venues including the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Pittsburgh Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellowship Program.
I also quite liked the Belcore of José Adán Pérez and the Dulcamara of Marco Nisticò. Belcore's swagger was cute, not annoying, and in the hands of Mr. Pérez and director A. Scott Perry, we had a Belcore who knew better than to take his own braggadocio seriously. Even though he's a baritone--we each have our cross to bear--I like his singing very much. I usually find Dulcamara grating, but not in this case. Mr. Nisticò is also a good singer, and his character was the usual Ali Hakim-type snake oil salesman with the charm and charisma. Two requirements, I imagine, in the field of snake oil sales.
I wish I were as fond of Stefania Dovhan's Adina as I am of the rest of the cast. She is an excellent singing actress, but her voice type is not one I'd cast in the role. Her bio-blurb lists Donna Anna, Fiordiligi, Violetta and Louise, among others--roles the Europeans give to dramatic coloraturas, whereas I like a lighter voice as Adina. A Blondchen or Despina. Something about Ms. Dovhan's chiaroscuro didn't sit right with me in some of Adina' more lyric passages. I did enjoy her performance, and I'd enjoy hearing her in the other roles listed.
In the pit was cutie-patootie Brad Cohen. Brad, you have my permission to use that on your resume. Call me.
I have to thank Erika for the excellent seats and the delightful evening. Balm for my weary soul.
Update--The New York Times agrees:
It was hard to tell if David Lomelí was laughing or crying at the warm, extended ovation that followed his big aria on Tuesday evening at the New York City Opera, but he certainly deserved all the applause and bravos.