The Elixir of Love, Opera by G. Donizetti
A comic opera in two acts, with music by Gaetano Donizetti and Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on the libretto by Eugène Scribe for the opera Le philtre (1831) by Daniel François Esprit Auber.
The Elixir of Love – performed here at the Teatro Costanzi (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma) – was first premiered on 12 May 1832 at the Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan, where it was received to great acclaim. It was Donizetti’s first great success in the genre of opera buffa.
The Elixir of Love, which was composed in just two weeks, achieved lasting success and today it is one of the most frequently performed of Donizetti’s operas worldwide. It includes one of the best known arias in the operatic world, Una furtiva lacrima, which has been performed by the greatest tenors in the world (Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and Juan Diego Flórez, to name a few). This opera, with the aforementioned aria in particular, stands out within the Italian bel canto tradition, where the beauty of the vocal sound is the main priority, with the singers’ technique and agility emphasising the beauty of the melodies. Indeed, the melodies in The Elixir of Love – simple and of folk origins – delighted the public right from the opera’s premiere, as did the different characters with their well-defined personalities (an innocent villager, a whimsical rich woman, a sly travelling salesman, a vain sergeant…).
The action unfolds in an Italian village at the beginning of the 19th century, and revolves around Nemorino, a shy and innocent peasant who is in love with the rich Adina. In order to woo her, he tries to make use of an “elixir of love”, though in reality he is dealing with a bogus love potion.