[Met Performance] CID:186570
L'Elisir d'Amore {80} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 12/20/1960.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 20, 1960


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

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

Review of Max de Schauensee in the Evening Bulletin

Metropolitan Opera presents Its New Production of Donizetti's Comedy Opera 'L'Elisir d'Amore'

The Metropolitan Opera's second offering at the Academy of Music last night was Donizetti's sparkling opera buffa, "L'Elisir d'Amore," which is one of the company's new productions this year. The Metropolitan was faced with a choice of how to approach this 128-year-old opera and it selected an extraordinarily pretty, slick, Broadwayish production, which took over the stage in a riot of color and ceaseless balletic activity. It is certain that Nathaniel Merrill's up-to-date methods of stage direction and Robert O'Hearn's bright bonbons of costumes and sets quite dominated the evening. I still feel that a more simple, less self-conscious and flashy approach brings out the inherent charm and pathos of this rustic comedy of peasant amours.

Last night, everyone was very active, very coy, very arch, very assured. Costumes supposedly belonging to peasants of a small Southern Italian village, looked as though they had come out of bandboxes from a smart shop. Dulcamara, a country quack. appeared in a costume that could have graced the court of the Hapsburgs. He made his initial appearance in a balloon that was lowered slowly from the summit of the stage. We all know that opera is make-believe but there are such things as correct period and a sense of place and conditions. For those who care little about these matters, the Metropolitan comes across with quite a gorgeous show.

In the days of Caruso, Sembrich, Hempel, Gigli, Scotti, and De Luca, even in the days of Tagliavini (the last previous Metropolitan Nemorino), "L'Elisir d'Amore" was a virtuoso opera as far as the vocalists were concerned. Maybe the day of such vocalists is over. Maybe with such a top-heavy production, correct scale passages and elegant fioritura would pass unnoticed. Certainly, there was little of this last night and conductor Fausto Cleva, who gave an excellent ensemble performance, did not encourage the florid effects that used to be the glory of this type of opera.

A new tenor, Dino Formichini, made his debut in the role of Nemorino. To him falls the celebrated cavatina, "Una furtive lagrima," which, if sung brilliantly, can bring down the house. Last night it did not. In fact, Mr. Formichini labored mightily in the famous aria and was not altogether secure. There was little nicety of phrasing, little real mezza-voce. The new tenor has an excellent voice, but he sings his passage notes in too hard a manner, too openly, a method which, in the long run, creates difficulties for the singer. Mr. Formichini radiates little personal charm and he chose to make an obtuse bumpkin out of Nemorino to the extent that it was difficult to realize the heroine's preference.

Elisabeth Söderström is a charming singer and she has a charming personality. She is not a brilliant vocalist, but she sings securely and with a pretty tone. She proved a thoroughly acceptable Adina. Frank Guarrera finds in Belcore a role that suits him histrionically to a T, but which poses difficulties for his type of voice. The music often seemed low for him and the florid passages of "Come Paride" were sloppily presented. However, he made a dashing and personable sergeant. Dr. Dulcamara is a part that Fernando Corena manages superbly, His voice is an unyielding organ, but his verve and projection sweep everything before them. And a word for Mildred Allen's prettily sung Giannetta.

The audience seemed to enjoy the fine spectacle and the vitality of all concerned, but one nostalgically recalls real ovations for individual achievement, for moments of tonal glory and technical brilliance. Maybe what we witnessed last night comes under the general heading of what is known as progress.

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