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L’ELISIR D’AMORE, by Gaetano Donizetti, had its debut in Milan, Italy, in 1832. Yet this comedy of phoniness promoted by a charlatan of the highest order remains a grand operatic romp today.
Daughter Suz and I had a wonderful time at the Pacific Opera Project production of The Elixir of Love. Those in the Los Angeles area have a chance to see it too, with other 8 p.m. performances running on February 17, 18, 24 and 25, 2017.
Pacific Opera Project has been around since 2011 with the mission of making opera accessible, affordable and entertaining. It accomplishes this in sterling fashion.
The venue for Elixir, like others of POP’s productions, is the Highland Park Ebell Club, established in the early 1900s and serving as a sanctuary locale for suffragettes prior to the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. Today, the Highland Park Ebell Club is a perfect setting for POP’s productions performed in a dinner club setting.
Tables are arranged in concentric semicircles so that everyone is close to the operatic action. Our table, sort of in the second ring, was perhaps 20 ft. from the edge of the stage. A table for two cost $65, and includes a bottle of wine (we chose the Three Wishes California Pinot Grigio), bottled water and a snack tray that could serve as a light dinner for two: salami, pepperoni, cheeses, crackers, lettuce, tomato, berries, nuts, chocolates and dessert.
I’ve seen three productions of Elixir, with only the Met HD’s 2012–2013 version set traditionally. Orange County’s Opera Pacific production back in its 2006–2007 season shared POP’s 1950s’ setting of a diner located near a military base.
Nemorino, sung by tenor Kyle Patterson, is a soda jerk smitten by worldly Adina, sung by soprano Amanda Kingston. Bass Andrew Potter portrays Belcore, the wonderfully slick sergeant with the hots for Adina. Adina’s friend Giannetta, sung by soprano Jenna Friedman, is one of a delightful band of bobby-soxers. Bass-baritone Rocky Sellers portrays Dr Dulcamara, his charlatan character made all the more engaging by doses of Elvis and Little Richard.
These cast members are accomplished talents. Sellers, for instance, makes his Tokyo debut later this year. Kingston was a Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
POP productions have orchestral accompaniment, in the case of Elixir, an ensemble of 12 (I believe I counted them all) led by Guest Conductor Nicholas Gilmore in an orchestra pit at the rear of the stage. In 2009, Gilmore received a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Award. He’s now finishing his Doctor of Arts in Orchestral Conducting and Opera Studies at the University of Northern Colorado.
The POP Elixir is sung in Italian, with supertitles projected above the stage. These English renderings of the dialogue are a delight and part of the entertainment. They explain the occasionally madcap goings-on accurately, but not slavishly in exact translation. The audience enjoys added fun in recognizing song titles from past eras.
With hopes that fellow southern Californians might see the remaining POP presentations of Elixir of Love, I’ve purposely avoided an extensive plot summary. Imagine, though, a phony love potion, an inheritance from an uncle’s demise known only to some, a rascally con artist—and a happy ending for all. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017