Friday, October 13, 2006
The Elixir of Love at NYC Opera
Having grown up listening to classical music, if not full-length operas exactly, I find one of the exciting things about seeing an opera from the common repertoire for the first time is waiting for that moment of recognition when famous arias make their entrance. So it was tonight with Jonathan Miller's production of L'elisir d'amore at City Opera in the State Theater. Except that the famous tune I was waiting for, "Una furtiva lagrima," is sung by a lonely but hopeful guy in a cowboy hat and boots standing outside a roadside diner somewhere in the American Southwest. And the girl he's pining after? She's the Adina from the neon "Adina's Diner" sign that dominates half of the scenes, a great twist on the "wealthy landowner" description in the original setting. The updating of the story from the 19th century to the 1950s doesn't stop with the costumes and sets, however. After just the first few supertitles of this Italian opera, the Fifties-era slang starts to elicit laughs from the audience. I'm a fan of creative re-imaginings of classics, and this one definitely works. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief a bit, but that's really the name of the game even when you're performing operas in their original time periods. The wonderful spinning out of a mood, a theme, an emotion from the usually fairly thin plot is what makes opera such an escape when it's done well. It's melodrama at its most archetypal, and if you can fit beauty and a bit of knowingness into the production, all the better. So bring on the Elvis and Fuller Brush man references, the singing's just fine.