Because there was no review published of my last performance, I have taken upon myself to write my own. This might seem vain and awkward, but those two words pretty much sum up my entire performance career thus far, so I’m going to roll with them.
In any case, these performances were amazing. I guess that’s the real reason I want to write my own review. I am tooting my own horn and I don’t care if it’s kosher or not. “Toot!!!”
“On Friday, October 6th and again on October 8th, Opera Idaho put on the comic opera by bel canto composer, Gaetano Donizetti, L’elisir d’amore (The Love Potion), written in 1832 and sung in Italian with English super-titles. This was the first of six productions which the regional opera company will produce in this 2017-18 season.
Though Donizetti wrote over sixty operas during his career, L’elisir remains one of the handful of staple favorites by the composer regularly produced in modern opera repertories. It’s an audience favorite thanks to the tight comic scenes mixed with soaring melodies conveying deep emotion.
Many have said that this opera resembles, in more than one way, the Barber of Seville by Goacchino Rossini, which was written sixteen years previous. They may be more correct than they realize. Every composer of note had a “shoulder to stand on;” borrowing from either contemporaries, or from mavericks of the past. Nevertheless, for a time-crunch of six weeks in which to compose the opera, Donizetti did well to borrow formulae from his predecessor.
On Friday night, the Egyptian Theatre on 7th Avenue and Main Street was buzzing with positive energy. Stage Director, Andrew Nienaber updated the opera to resemble a 1940’s jazz club, simply called “Simplot” (humorously, or not, named after the most major patroness of Opera Idaho, Ester Simplot).
In a fund-raising effort, Opera Idaho had sold premium seats, two to a table, on stage to the tune of $250 per seat. Those who acquired them had an experience like no other, enjoying local wine, while being up close and personal with the artists, and occasionally interacting with them as though patrons of “the Simplot Club.”
Adina, played by Soprano, Cecilia Violetta Lopez, is the owner of the club. She is wily, intelligent, capricious and in control of the establishment. She takes turns entertaining the guests at the “microphone” and refilling their drinks. Nemorino, is a custodian and is first to appear on scene. He is played by Tenor, Thomas Glenn. During the overture, he appears mopping the floor and cracking jokes (in Italian) with the audience, until the other characters appear and he retreats to the sides. He is madly in love with Adina.
Baritone, Jason Detwiler is Belcore, the military officer interrupting everything to make a quick marriage with the most attractive candidate he can find. That candidate, to the chagrin of Nemorino, is Adina.
To win her affections, Nemorino buys a love potion from Dr. Dulcamara, played by Bass-baritone Christopher Job who appears as a salesman between sets at the club, selling his (ahem… snake oil) “cure-all products” to the audience to benefit the “War effort.” For $20, Dulcamara sells Nemorino a cheap bottle of expired chianti as Isolde’s love potion and instructs him that after a day, all the women of the community will fall in love with him. Which, eventually, they do, but only because Nemorino’s rich uncle has died leaving his fortune to him.
Ignorant of this incident, both the drunken Nemorino and the somber Adina have worked out their feelings for one another and eventually, Adina breaks and confesses her love to Nemorino. The opera ends with the two in a fond embrace, surprised with the news of impending riches from the deceased uncle. ‘Good choice, Adina.
Conductor, Andrew Anderson led the orchestra admirably. Thanks to succinct comic timing mixed with a secure and steady lyricism from the pit, the evening kept everyone’s perception at the forefront of the action. The chorus, populated by local singers and Opera Idaho’s young artists, sounded completely in sync with a mature sound, also supplying many of the evening’s comic moments (and… choreography!).
All the leads were fantastic. Ms. Lopez filled the role of Adina to bursting; not only singing every note of her crystalline melismas with ringing precision and deep emotion (even shedding what seemed like genuine tears in the last scene), but also interpolating a high E in her final aria. She is a bel canto interpreter extraordinaire.
The same could be said of tenor, Thomas Glenn whose lyric and at times, heroic performance twice stopped the dramatic action of the opera with applause breaks, first for an unexpected but stellar high C in his duet with Belcore, and again following his impassioned aria, “Una furtiva lagrima.”
Equally, deft was Bass-baritone Christopher Job as Dulcamara, who exerted power and a burnished vocal color, punctuated by a raised eyebrow and a wink; a perfect foil to the lovers. And Idaho’s stalwart baritone, Jason Detwiler can make anyone swoon with his strong, broad vocal range and always energetic comedy.
Finally, Jena Carpenter was hilarious as Gianetta, the town gossip.
Of course, one looks to international houses to find the “gold standard” in opera. They can, after all, afford the very best. However, when regional companies with smaller forces attempt a parallel musical quality to please an audience in this fashion, we all feel a strong sense of gratitude for such fine skill. Congratulations to Opera Idaho on a transcendent evening.
L’elisir d’amore, produced by Opera Idaho, will have one last performance, in Pocatello, Idaho on November 4th.”
See below for a clandestine video taken by my wife from the audience of my “Una furtiva…”