OPERA NEWS - L’Elisir d’Amore
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In Review > North America

L’Elisir d’Amore

Houston Grand Opera

In Review Houston Grand Opera lg 117
Heaston and Pittas, Adina and Nemorino at HGO
© Lynn Lane

HOUSTON GRAND OPERA opened its season on October 21 with Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore in a production from Opera North that combined finely tuned (and hilarious) stage direction by Daniel Slater, detailed choreography by Robert Innes Hopkins and an exceptional Nemorino sung by tenor Dimitri Pittas. A mid-twentieth-century Amalfi coast hotel setting, more Italian chic than rustic, and a couple of grand entrances—Belcore’s among a small fleet of Vespas, Dulcamara’s by hot-air balloon—completed the picture of the buoyant comedy.

At the center of this comedy, Pittas’s Nemorino had it all—sostenuto; emotion-laden singing that seemed to pour out with both power and ease; the right mix of ingenuousness and ardent determination; and a Buster Keaton-like knack for physical comedy. He danced ineptly with rubber-limbed exuberance, careened about with an ever-growing stack of glasses on a tray (Nemorino is a waiter at the hotel) and grumpily but ostentatiously played the triangle with the onstage banda during the wedding party. Bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi’s Dr. Dulcamara was a lovable charlatan—nimble onstage and equipped with a crisp delivery for the con man’s rapid, pattering asides. Soprano Alicia Gianni, as Giannetta, also gave a strong performance: sweet-voiced and fully adept at slapstick, her Giannetta stood out as a crucial foil to the other characters throughout. As Adina, soprano Nicole Heaston radiated insouciance and flirted effortlessly, but it was not until the final scene of the opera that the rich vibrancy and flexibility of her voice came through. Michael Sumuel has a velvety, expressive bass-baritone that is just right for the confident and ever-amorous Belcore, but his movements seemed perfunctory.

In addition to balanced, well-coordinated accompaniment, the HGO Orchestra, as expertly led by guest conductor Jane Glover, also featured soulful and virtuoso solos by Eric Chi (clarinet) and Amanda Swain (bassoon). The HGO Chorus had one of the best musical moments of the show (the tiptoeing delicacy and precision of the village women in “Non si dirà”); it also contributed vitally to the visual comedy of this production with a tightly choreographed crowd scene anticipating Dulcamara’s arrival, a rowdy conga-line celebrating Adina and Belcore’s announced wedding, and drunken party-girl attempts at attracting the newly wealthy Nemorino.  —Gregory Barnett

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