[Met Performance] CID:186320
New production
L'Elisir d'Amore {77} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/25/1960.

(Debuts: Dino Formichini, Robert O'Hearn, Todd Bolender

Metropolitan Opera House
November 25, 1960
New production

Donizetti-F. Romani

Adina...................Elisabeth Söderström
Nemorino................Dino Formichini [Debut]
Belcore.................Frank Guarrera
Dr. Dulcamara...........Fernando Corena
Giannetta...............Mildred Allen

Conductor...............Fausto Cleva

Director................Nathaniel Merrill
Designer................Robert O'Hearn [Debut]
Choreographer...........Todd Bolender [Debut]

Production a gift of the Metropolitan Opera Club, Mr. and Mrs. R. Livingston Ireland of Cleveland, Ohio,
Mrs. John Barry Ryan, Mrs. Albert D. Lasker, and other donors

L'Elisir d'Amore received thirteen performances this season.

Review of Robert J. Landry in Variety

Run-of-Repertory Ripsnorter

Met Opera's 'L'Elisir d'amore' Packs Punch of Broadway Musical

Nowadays a certain amount of intellectual "lip service" is paid to the ideal of repertory, of which new American examples are in prospect. Meanwhile the Metropolitan Opera is almost alone in operating under this expensive and occasionally ponderous system of presentation. Few remember to remark that its run-of-season average is pretty consistently high. Seldom does the Met fall on its face. How really fine it can be on occasion was displayed last Friday (25) when Gaetano Donizetti's great opera buffa, "L'Elisir d'amore" was restored to repertory after 10 years' absence.

Redesigned, restaged and, of course, re-cast it immediately assumed stature on several counts. First, it was a triumph of repertory, an opera with the zing, pace and bounce of a hit Broadway musical. Second, it was positively infectious, creating an audience warmth and enthusiasm which is rare indeed in any opera house. Thirdly, adding up all the factors, this was a crashing lesson that opera can be downright entertaining, without a dull moment.

The success of this venture in "lightness" lies in the fact that the score is one of the sheerest sing-ingest sessions ever assigned a cast of five principals. Again and again there are prolonged opportunities to sing their heads off. Add that the 1832 libretto of Felice Romani stands time's passage remarkably well, in no way denying the very evident freshening implicit in the new stage direction of Nathaniel Merrill, the simply, compactly and imaginatively engineered sets of Robert O'Hearn and the numerous nice little dancing (not ballet) touches of Todd Bolender.

An element of personal excitement was added to the first performance by the debut of Dino Formichini as Nemorino, after Ceasar Valletti conked out on illness. At first glimpse the new-comer did not seem prepossessing. He wore the usual elevator foot- wear of the short Italian tenor. His costume was difficult. But as he began to sing there was a pleasant surprise and when he began to act it was even more agreeable - he achieved characterization. Formichini certainly had himself a fine night, even though he was distinctly better in the first act than in the second, and did not altogether master [first] night occasional constriction of pipes. He came a stranger. He ended with an ovation. He carries now the promise of being possibly the Met's finest tenor promise in seasons.

Meanwhile as the medicine show man (Merrill brings him on stage in a balloon, a delightful inspiration) the Met's regular, Fernando Corena, was giving a performance of superb gusto combined with impeccable restraint. Never descending to hokum, yet thoroughly comic, Corena may well be hailed this season, as George London was three years ago, as "opera's best actor." The point, of course, is that he was first the completely masterful musician in the part and hence free to be so much more.

Elizabeth Söderström sang Adina with vocal sweetness and accuracy. The two lesser roles were entrusted to Mildred Allen and Frank Guarrera, both very pro. Fausto Cleva a generous man when audience applause holds up the proceedings, was on the baton. As to that, one may ask, how often does the audience want to hold up the proceedings?

One of the disadvantages of repertory is that fine nights get lost in the general rotation of all sorts and kinds of performances. There will be many grateful spectators to spread the word of mouth about the happy return of "L'Elisir d' amore." This reviewer would add a small scoffing noise for the effort the Met squandered in recent seasons on "La Pericole" and "The Gypsy Barron," the one based on a donkey and Cyril Ritchard and the other based on a pig and Walter Slezak. Moral: it's better when the leading man is a singer!

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