Saturday, March 19, 2016

Elixir at Amore Opera

Nemorino suffering the attentions of the ladies
Photo courtesy
When New York's legendary Amato Opera closed its doors in 2009, some members of its administration and company of singers formed Amore Opera to continue Amato's tradition of presenting opera performed by young professionals. This level of opera is one of my favorites to report on--young singers starting out, small companies with quite limited budgets showing immense creativity, sometimes new and challenging repertoire but quite often new looks at standard rep. Although I've often heard good things about Amore's work, I must admit I had never seen one of their shows. I heard the group was presenting two Donizetti operas in repertory, so I knew I must see these offerings to hold onto my credibility as a bel canto bear.

Belcore presents arms to Adina
Photo courtesy
On Friday evening I saw L'Elisir d'Amore, that delightful comedy about, oddly enough, amore. Just as it is nearly impossible to present a La Boheme that does not make me cry, it is pretty darn hard to present an Elixir that doesn't enchant me in some way. Amore's production did not disappoint.

Every Elixir needs a good Nemorino, and Nemorino in Friday night's cast was a delight. (Each principal role was triple cast, but I can only report on the cast I saw.) Aaron Blankfield was a charming bumpkin, hopelessly in love with the beautiful Adina, in spite of Adina's repeated claims his hopes are in vain. As the performance progressed, Mr. Blankfield became more and more confident and comfortable, which made his physical and vocal performances more and more free. Adina was Sarah Moulton Faux, whom we praised in these pages in 2011 for her participation in a Baroque opera concert. The lovely Ms. Faux has a beautiful sound and is a joy to see on stage. Adina and Nemorino had a lovely chemistry, and, as usual, "Prendi, per me sei libero", toward the end of the second act, brought a tear to this bitter old critic's eye. It is clear Adina has always loved Nemorino, although she herself might not have realized it.

Entire company, including chorus, dancers,
and too much scenerey
Photo courtesy
The other two principal cast members, Gustavo Morales as Belcore and Gary Giardina as Dulcamara, were fun to watch. Both were full of bluster and nonsense and gave their characters enough sense not to take themselves too seriously. (A Belcore who believed all of his own braggadocio would be more tragic than comic, don't you think?)

This production had quite a lot of the spirit of the old Amato Opera, from the gleeful "Let's put on a show!" spirit to the overcrowded stage and resulting awkward staging of crowd scenes. In the smaller scenes director Nathan Hull did well, giving his artists guided breathing room in finding their own characters. Music Director Daniele Tirilli's sometimes rushed tempi were hard to follow, and the orchestra sounded a bit underrehearsed, even though this was performance no. 6 of 7.

I have a few qualms, yes, but I do recommend this show. Unfortunately, there is only one more performance, which will likely be over by the time you read this post!

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