“Elixir of Love,” the concoction of a hit

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Pure excitement is rare these days but it is certainly warranted by the production of Donizetti’s “Elixir of Love,” coming this winter to the Lang Center. As Music Department Chair Tom Whitman writes “It is not often that we have the critical mass of singers necessary to put on a full opera like this.”

“Elixir of Love,” originally staged in 1832, during the Bel-Canto period of Italian opera by music prodigy Gaetano Donizetti, was almost instantly received by ecstatic audiences and critics. As a follower of Bel-Canto, Donizetti scored the music to emphasize the beauty of the singers’ voices rather than to establish a moral message, according to Tom Whitman.

While this opera will be in English, the music carries over, and the sentiments remain sincere and refreshing. The story details the travails of poor waiter Nemorino and his pursuit of the cute and in-charge Adina. Finding a solution to his awkwardness in a quack’s elixir, he receives enough punch to woo Adina, but first must maneuver past the self-assured Sergeant Belcore to reach her.

According to director Julian Rodescu, “I think we have a wonderful cast, and we are working hard to bring the characters to life, not just sing the notes.” He has decided to stage the musical in South Philadelphia, to further contextualize the plot. Plus, he “thought of the Italian Market, that wonderful mix of Italian, Vietnamese and other cultures, and I thought this story would work.” The actual set will be placed in the Lang’s lobby; unlike an auditorium this offers a much more personal experience, another touch by the directors.

But the real enthusiasm lies with the cast. Tamara Ryan ’06, who plays Adina, tells the Gazette that this is the role of her college career. “I feel very fortunate to do it. A full length opera and I’m starring in it.” She adds, “We’ve had one rehearsal so far, a vocal run through last Saturday…I was excited, in fact the rest of the weekend was just a let-down.” It’s a big production by any college standards, large or small in size, and the music and story animates everyone involved. As Ryan told the Gazette, “It’s so much fun, an easy romantic comedy, a happy ending, which is nice for opera. Girl’s not in love with the boy and then is…still not very realistic.”

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