L’Elisir D’Amore — A Star is Born

Last year we did not see the Bartlett Sher production of L’Elisir D’Amore with Anna Netrebko because we are idiots. We decided to rectify that mistake and see the revival also with Netrebko this year and bought tickets for its opening night.

I’ve seen Netrebko in the Willy Decker version of La Traviata thanks to youtube, but the only time the better-half and I saw her live was in this season’s dismal Eugene Onegrin, known in our house as Six Singers Flailing on a Stage in Search of a Production. So we thought it would be great to see her in a role in which she’d triumphed, in a production that actually had a director.

Not keeping up on all the gossip, we didn’t know that Netrebko was out with the flu and we’d be watching the Met debut of Andriana Chuchman. Fortunately, the Met knew, and Chuchman had been at the dress rehearsal. All we knew was what was on the note inserted in our Playbill. Someone we’d never heard of would be making her Met debut in a role we’d come to hear the sweetheart of the Metropolitan sing.

Pressure much?

The better-half who is also the nicer-half made it clear that unless she was terrible he planned to applaud her very loudly.

She started off a little soft and drowned out by the orchestra. It didn’t seem like she had the vocal power for the house, but then her voice, confidence and presence grew. By the end of the first act, she was Adina. In the second act, she triumphed.

The production has no bells and whistles, just a beautiful set that makes you want to fly off to Tuscany, colorful period costumes, and of course beautiful music. L’Elisir D’Amore is one of the operas, and this is one of those productions, that someone who likes musicals but has never been to the opera would enjoy. Its playfulness and comedy make it a precursor to the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Ms Chuchman was ably supported by an outstanding cast. I had doubts about RamónVargas. I’d seen him in the title role in a lugubrious production of Don Carlo and felt he was charisma-challenged. However, this worked for Nemerino. He’s supposed to be the one Adina never really noticed. He was adept at the comedy, and in the opera’s most famous aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima, he killed.

Nicola Alaimo was wonderful as Sergeant Belcore, an overinflated man with an overinflated opinion of his effect on women, and Erwin Schrott all but stole the show as Dulcamara.

You can catch Ms Chuchman again on Monday, January 13th. Netrebko is scheduled to return for the performance following that.

We sat (again) in the cheap seats. I would definitely recommend bringing binoculars if you are going to be far from the stage. There is a lot of acting with the face in this one. I also discovered that the first row of the Family Circle is awful. The barrier in front of the row is high and cuts off a good part of the stage for anyone under six feet tall. You can see fine if you lean a few inches or sit forward, but this is not so great for the back. I’ve sat in the second row of family circle and haven’t had this problem. For more on Met seating and cheap seats, go here.

(Marion doesn’t spend all her time going to opera and Broadway shows. She writes fiction too.)