Lyric Opera Theatre's 'L'elisir d'amore' a classic opera with lighthearted romance

If the thought of attending a Donizetti opera performed entirely in Italian is intimidating, fear not: The ASU Lyric Opera Theatre's production of “L'elisir d'amore” aims to make the composer's work accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Brian DeMaris, LOT artistic director and conductor, said the production is great because it combines the operatic style with a plot that's easy for current audiences to follow.

"It's basically a 19th century Italian version of a modern sitcom," DeMaris said.

The opera, which translates as "Elixir of Love," tells the story of a young peasant Nemorino who is hopelessly in love with his childhood friend Adina, a beautiful landowner. He confesses his love to her but she refuses him, so he turns to the help of a quack doctor who sells him a "love potion" (which is actually a bottle of cheap wine) to win her affections.

L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) opens this week! Buy tickets here:

Posted by Lyric Opera Theatre - Arizona State University School of Music on Monday, February 22, 2016

Meanwhile, Adina courts and promises to marry a self-absorbed sergeant in order to make Nemorino jealous. Through a series of comedic and romantic misunderstandings, Nemorino and Adina go back and forth before they finally find true love.

Asleif Willmer, a second-year doctoral student of musical art in vocal performance, plays the role of Adina in the LOT production. She said she recommends the opera because of its lighthearted and relatable theme.

"It's the typical storyline of a sweet, kind of dorky boy who's in love with a very feisty, popular, beautiful girl," Willmer said. "He's trying to get her to fall in love with him and then they end up together. It's a storyline we're very used to and the whole staging of the opera is brilliant."

The cast performs the entire opera in its original Italian form, but supertitles are displayed on a screen above the stage so audience members can follow along in English.

Brian Jeffers is a second-year masters student in music theater with an opera emphasis who plays Nemorino. He said the supertitles are helpful, but not necessary to understanding the opera.

"In our rehearsals we had visitors watching it without supertitles and they were laughing along," Jeffers said. "It's such a popular story — the nerd loving the popular girl — that it's very accessible."

The cast is composed of five principle roles (four of which are double-cast) and 22 chorus members, for a total of 31 performers, plus a 28-member pit orchestra. The onstage performers are all students within the opera and musical theater programs, and the orchestra members are from the school of music.

Dale Dreyfoos, the resident stage director for LOT and a professor of opera/music theatre at ASU, said he believes the production is important because it allows students to experiment and practice a diverse set of skills.

"That's one of the great things about our music theater program," Dreyfoos said. "Our students get background in performing both genres, opera and musical theater, so this is such a great experience for them."

First day on the set for Elixir of Love! Don't miss this amazing opera! February 25th-27th at…

Posted by Lyric Opera Theatre - Arizona State University School of Music on Thursday, February 18, 2016

Charity Johansen, a second-year masters student studying music in opera performance, said “L'elisir d'amore” is different from plays or musicals because it is driven completely by the music.

"(With opera) the music is everything," she said. "In a play you don't usually have any musical numbers, and in a musical you're not singing the whole time. There's other things that feed the drama, like spoken dialogue. In opera, the text still drives the drama, but ... it's nonstop music.

"We do have subtitles, but sometimes I forget those are there because I'm so enthralled at what's happening on stage, in the beautiful music," she added. "You can get lost in the story."

The LOT production of “L'elisir d'amore” runs at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre from Feb. 25 to 28. Tickets are between $8 to $21 and can be found on the LOT website.

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