The music and story of The Elixir of Love are delightfully charming and the COC has assembled a fine group of singers to administer it. The strength of this particular elixir is that it’s a character-based, romantic comedy, filled with a very fun and happy score. There’s heartache and longing and it’s all brought to life by Gaetano Donizetti’s thoughtful capacity to create beautiful melodic hooks.
Director James Robinson relocates the story from small-town Italy to small-town Ontario on the eve of World War I and it works perfectly well.
Elixir opens with Adina reading Tristan und Isolde, a story I’m sure you know that is among other things, about a love potion. This story also hinges on a love potion, here administered by the seedy Dr. Dulcamara, purveyor of many cure-all elixirs.
Adina and Nemorino are very well-drawn characters and Simone Osborne and Andrew Haji do them great justice. The two are at their finest in Act II’s love duet as they profess their love for one another.
Haji doesn’t miss a note as the adoring Nemorino and his mannerisms play perfectly to the shy, young peasant, quietly in love with Adina. After hearing him sing Una furtiva lagrima with his perfectly light and vibrating chords, one couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Haji is one to keep an eye out for.
Simone Osborne is one of my favorite young sopranos and she’s getting stronger with each role, in both voice and acting. She is particularly adept at playful, physical comedy—I’ll never forget her as Riccardo’s page girl Oscar, in the COC’s 2014 production of A Masked Ball.
Baritone Gordon Bintner is a perfect choice for Belcore, the braggadocious suitor to Adina. Dr. Dulcamara the charismatic, comedic con-artist is made thoroughly enjoyable by British baritone Andrew Shore—although his voice felt small for the opera house at some points.
Elixir was written in the bel canto style, which places the emphasis on the singer’s voice rather than the orchestra. Conductor Yves Abel was a little heavy-handed in the production I attended. Many voices got lost in the duets and ensemble arias.
Of course, like any good romantic comedy, Adina and Nemorino end up together. COC audience members end up leaving the opera house with a feeling of joy and lightness.
Elixir of Love is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre until November 4. Please visit coc.ca for tickets and show times.