Elixir of Love – Opera Cheat Sheet
A basic guide to understanding BYU’s production of The Elixir of Love, running June 12-15
By Daniel Mesta, Dramaturg
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The Life of Donizetti
I don’t consider myself to be a particularly romantic person. When I hear the quiet whispers of lovers seated in a park or see the nervous young gentleman approaching my neighbor’s door with flowers, I am overcome with feelings of cynicism and nonchalance.
That being said, when I first heard the powerful text of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, a flash of belief immediately pierced my heart. As I disappeared further and further into this nonsensical world of singing villagers, fairy tales, tricky salesmen, and slick soldiers, the lack of logic in the story began to fall away, leaving only passion, promise, and power.
From the seductive sensibility of “Saria Possibile” to the sorrowful sobs of “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, this opera explores the complete spectrum of romance and relationships. It leaves us with questions such as “What should one be expected to sacrifice for love?” “Does true love always win over greed and infatuation?” “What is behind the allure of something we cannot have, and what does it say about us?” and many other similar questions.
As we descend into the bright and beautiful world of 18th century Tuscany, I invite you to open your heart and leave behind your head for just a few hours. Allow yourself to be taken over and taken in by the stunning singing and dazzling design.
For those who are watching this work from the secure perch of true love, I congratulate you and invite you to consider the story from the perspective of your own relationship. Many watching this opera are looking hopefully, not unlike our hero Nemorino. I wish you luck! Some will be watching from the shadow of love lost, scorned, or unrequited. For the next two hours, I invite you to believe again.
Grazie, e goditi lo spettacolo.
1760, a town square in Cortona, Tuscany
Gianetta and the villagers go about their afternoon business, conversing with one another about the day’s harvest and the blazing summer heat. Nemorino approaches and sings of his love for Adina, who never notices him. Adina entertains the town with a brief reading of the story of Tristan and Isolde, in which a powerful potion can cause people to fall in love. Nemorino listens from a distance, and the villagers express their own opinions about the story.
The music signals the arrival of Belcore, a handsome sergeant in the army. The women of the town, particularly Gianetta, find themselves in a frenzy, each fawning over him as he and his soldiers arrive in the village square. Adina, however, remains aloof from the action, disinterested in Belcore’s status and wealth. Attracted to her indifference, Belcore pursues Adina as Nemorino watches, again from afar, and mourns his romantic ineptitude. As the flirtation continues, Belcore proposes marriage to Adina, who quickly refuses.
After he leaves, Nemorino works up the nerve to talk to Adina, clumsily confessing his love for her. She informs him that she is capricious in her choices with no desire to settle down.
The townspeople are in a speculative flurry over the arrival of a large, colorful wagon. The wagon stops in the square, and out steps Dr. Dulcamara, a traveling purveyor of potions and elixirs meant to solve all issues and ailments.
After declaring countless outlandish claims to the people of the village, he is approached by Nemorino, who asks if the Doctor can furnish him with an elixir similar to that used in Tristan and Isolde. The Doctor agrees, and sells him a bottle of Bordeaux with a new label slapped on the front of it. He then gives him a few bogus instructions, assuring that the elixir will work in a few days time- conveniently after he has left the village. Nemorino rejoices at the hope that the elixir will bring. Feeling the immediate effect of the alcohol and with full confidence in its power, Nemorino encounters Adina again. He treats her with deliberate indifference, which angers and confuses her. Belcore approaches, and Adina hatches a plan. She will make Nemorino feel jealous by responding positively to Belcore’s advances. Belcore arrives and the two converse, ending with Adina accepting his offer of marriage in six days time. Nemorino, confident that the elixir will have taken full effect by then, mocks the two.
Gianetta enters suddenly with the news that the soldiers have been called to report to battle the next day. Adina moves the wedding date up, and Nemorino panics, causing an outburst from Belcore. Nemorino finds himself humiliated and alone as the first act concludes.
The village square, an engagement party for Adina and Belcore
The villagers are enjoying the feast provided by Adina and Belcore. Dulcamara arrives at the feast and sings a song with Adina that he has written for the special day. The feast concludes, and Dulcamara remains onstage, plucking through the leftovers, when a desperate Nemorino arrives demanding a faster-acting potion. Dulcamara says that he has such a potion, but that it would cost far more money than Nemorino has. Upset and heartbroken, Nemorino sinks down onto the ground in the village square. Belcore enters and inquires as to Nemorino’s down-trodden countenance. Nemorino explains his situation. Seeing a way to rid himself of Nemorino, Belcore convinces him to join the army, explaining that with the cash advance he will be paid for signing on, he can afford whatever he wants. Sure that Nemorino will die in war shortly after signing, Belcore presents him with a contract and a large sum of money. Nemorino immediately purchases the elixir from Dulcamara.
Meanwhile, Gianetta informs the women of the town that Nemorino’s uncle has died, making Nemorino the richest man in town. They swarm him greedily, which Nemorino attributes to the new bottle of elixir. Adina notices this scene and becomes deeply angered with Nemorino. Dulcamara offers her some elixir, but she refuses it. Finally, Nemorino and Adina find themselves alone, and Adina confesses her love for Nemorino. They decide to marry. Belcore arrives and is stunned by the news. Adina and Nemorino are told the news of Nemorino’s uncle’s death. Dulcamara appears one last time, telling the town that this all came to be through his powerful elixir of love.
Tonight’s performance of the Elixir of Love is set in Tuscany in 1760. The romance and ease of the music coupled with the levity and whimsy of the story beautifully compliment the idyllic landscape painted for the audience by the set, lights, and costumes.
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany
In the 1700s, Italy was not yet unified as it is today. Instead, it was a grouping of smaller kingdoms. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was originally ruled by the Medici family of Florence, who were famous for their prolific support of the arts. Creativity flourished in the area for a large part of the 17th century. However, the economy began to fail in the early 1700s, forcing rural areas into poverty and major upheavals in the priorities of the governing bodies. The wool industry found itself replaced (somewhat) by the silk industry, and society began to move backward, slowly re-establishing feudal systems instead of supporting cottage industries. This led to a decline in the economy of villages, as peasants began moving out to farm the larger estates, leaving their urban dwellings.
The last Medici Duke died in 1737, leaving no heirs. The Grand Duchy was then taken over by the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, which proved to be a positive change. Under Leopold I, serfdom was abolished, as was the death penalty. The economy was renovated greatly, and the area began to thrive once again. The House of Habsburg-Lorraine continued to rule the area until 1860, when Italy was finally unified as a state. Their reign was briefly interrupted in the early 1800s by Napoleon, who annexed the area and named his sister, Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.
Tuscany is an area that has been long been romanticized by poets and artists alike. The famed Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of the area:
To the edge of a cliff, and dwindling.
But far up the mountain, behind the town,
We too were swept out, out by the wind,
Alone with the Tuscan grass.
Wind had been blowing across the hills
For days, and everything now was graying gold
With dust, everything we saw, even
Some small children scampering along a road,
Twittering Italian to a small caged bird.
We sat beside them to rest in some brushwood,
And I leaned down to rinse the dust from my face.
I found the spider web there, whose hinges
Reeled heavily and crazily with the dust,
Whole mounds and cemeteries of it, sagging
And scattering shadows among shells and wings.
And then she stepped into the center of air
Slender and fastidious, the golden hair
Of daylight along her shoulders, she poised there,
While ruins crumbled on every side of her.
Free of the dust, as though a moment before
She had stepped inside the earth, to bathe herself.
I gazed, close to her, till at last she stepped
Away in her own good time.
Have searched all over Tuscany and never found
What I found there, the heart of the light
Itself shelled and leaved, balancing
On filaments themselves falling.
Of this journey is to let the wind
Blow its dust all over your body,
To let it go on blowing, to step lightly, lightly
All the way through your ruins, and not to lose
Any sleep over the dead, who surely
Will bury their own, don’t worry.
~ Tangore, “The Journey”
The Life of Donizetti
A short biography of Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Donizetti was born in Bergamo in Lombardy. Early in his life, he found himself under the tutelage of composer Simon Mayr, who had granted him a full scholarship to his school. Mayr later helped Donizetti obtain a place at the Bologna Academy, where, at 19, he wrote his first one-act opera, Il Pigmalione, which was likely not performed until after his death.
Donizetti wrote close to 70 operas. Upon the invitation of Domenico Barbaja, the impresario of the Teatro di San Carlo, he relocated to Naples. His residency there lasted until January 1844. In all, 51 of Donizetti’s operas (including The Elixir of Love) were performed in Naples.
Donizetti found himself increasingly at odds with the censorship that existed in Italy (and especially in Naples). From about 1836, he idealized working in Paris, where he observed much bolder artistic freedom, as well as higher income and social prestige. In 1838 he received an offer from the Paris Opéra commissioning two new works. He then spent ten years in France, translating many of his operas into French and writing several new works in that language.
As the 1840s progressed, Donizetti moved frequently between Naples, Rome, Paris, and Vienna, composing and staging his own operas as well as those of his contemporaries. In 1843, he became severely ill and was forced to become more sedentary. He also suffered from mental illness, and by early 1846 he was confined to an institution for the mentally ill, where he died in 1848
Joshua Lindsay (Director)
Over the past 20 years, Tenor Joshua Lindsay has performed over 500 performances of opera, operetta, and musical theater throughout the United States of America, Italy, Germany, and Austria. From 2011 to 2017, he sang with the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck and in 2014 he was nominated for the distinguished Goldener Schikaneder music theater prize in Austria. In 2017, Dr. Lindsay joined the music faculty at Brigham Young University and is the opera director there. At BYU he directed Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, The Mikado, and Handel’s Theodora. In fall 2019, he will direct The Magic Flute by Mozart.
Dr. Lindsay has sung over 45 roles, including Hoffman (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Mottel (Fiddler on the Roof), Camille de Rosillon (The Merry Widow), Walther von der Vogelweide (Tannhäuser), Abate de Chazeuil (Adriana Lecouvreur), Knusperhexe (Hänsel und Gretel), Fenton (Falstaff), Matteo (Arabella), Kaspar (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Tamino (Zauberflöte), Parpignol (La Boheme) Trabucco (La forza del destino), Don Basilio (Le nozze di Figaro), Taupe (Capriccio), Jaquino (Fidelio), Harlekin/Soldat (Der Kaiser von Atlantis), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Brabantischer Edle (Lohengrin) , Zweiter Jude (Salome), Edwin (Trial by Jury), Gran Sacerdote (Idomeneo), Ovando (Alzira), Dackel/Schulmeister (Das schlaue Füchslein), Erster Gralsritter (Parsifal), Tobby Higgins/Jack O’Brian (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny), Nando (Tiefland), Timothy (Help! Help! The Globolinks!), Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas), Victorin (Die tote Stadt), Fiorello (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Sir Archibald Proops (Jekyll and Hyde),Tschekalinski (The Queen of Spades), Stimme (Totentanz), Heger (Rusalka), Pang (Turandot), Valzzacchi (Der Rosenkavalier), Albert (Albert Herring), Don Jose (Carmen), Dr. Blind (Die Fledermaus), Lackey (The Student Prince), and the Bangle Man (Kismet).
His concert repertoire includes: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mozart’s Orgelsolomesse in C, Carl Orf’s Carmina Burana, Franz Schubert’s Missa Nr. 6 in E flat major, Handel’s Messiah, Caccini’s Jephthah, Mozart’s Missa Solemnis in C major, Haydn’s Nelson Messe, Mozart’s Krönungsmesse, Brahms’; Liebesliederwalzer, and Carl Maria von Weber’s Jubel Messe. He has also sung several solo recitals.
He received a bachelor of music degree from Utah State University, a master of music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and a doctor of music degree from Indiana University. He was a young artist with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Utah Festival Opera, and a resident artist with the Nevada Opera. At the collegiate level, Joshua Lindsay taught group voice and private voice at Indiana University and directed the opera program at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Joshua Lindsay is married to Molly Lindsay and they have five children: Luke, Lily, Olivia, Rebekah, and Ruby.
Sara Cerrato (Conductor)
Sara initiated her musical training at the National School of Music in Honduras, first in the children’s program and then as a full-time student during Middle School and High School. As a cello student of Carlos Licona, she excelled and graduated top of her class. She then pursued a degree in cello performance at Brigham Young University-Idaho under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Tueller. It was during her undergrad years that she discovered a passion for conducting and studied privately with Dr. Rebecca Lord Smith, Dr. Dallin Hansen and Dr. Rebecca Roesler. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, she was offered a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in orchestral conducting at Brigham Young University where she is currently a student of Professor Kory Katseanes. Sara looks forward to continuing her musical education and pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting after she concludes her studies at BYU.
Sam Utley (Nemorino- Cast A)
From Salem, Oregon, Sam Utley graduated from BYU in April 2019 with a BM in vocal performance. Recent operatic credits include Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro and the Opera Tenor in La Chûte de Phaëton at the 2018 Aquilon Music Festival. At BYU he has performed as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Septimius in Theodora. In September he will begin an MA at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Riley Pierce (Nemorino- Cast B)
Riley Pierce, a senior in vocal performance, minor in communications, recently performed as Peter in The Lamb of God. He looks forward to lead roles with the BYU Opera including tonight’s The Elixir of Love as Nemorino and Tamino in The Magic Flute. Riley was a finalist in the 2018 Young Artists in Voice Competition winning the J. Arden Hopkin Award. From North Carolina, Riley and his wife Audrey are happy to call Utah home.
Abigail Miles (Adina- Cast A)
From Auburn, Washington, Abigail Miles is a junior in vocal performance. She was involved in BYU’s Fall 2018 Opera Theodora by Handel as a member of the chorus. She was a finalist in BYU’s Young Artists in Voice annual competition and recipient of the Lawrence Vincent award. She was also a winner of the BYU Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and a First Place winner in the NATS Central Utah Chapter auditions held in November 2018.
Ashley Cooley (Adina- Cast B)
Soprano Ashley Cooley has performed the roles of Despina, 1st Lady, Amore, and Susanna in scenes from Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte (BYU), Orfeo ed Euridice (Ubania, Italy), and the Marriage of Figaro (Rexburg, Idaho). She has appeared as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah (Rochester, New York; Rexburg, Idaho) and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Rochester, New York). As a member of the Rochester Festival Chorus, she performed in Kodak Hall with renowned soprano Kathleen Battle in Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey (Rochester, New York). While attending the Eastman School of Music she performed in Massenet’s Cendrillon and in the production “Hearing Ophelia” as part of the Rochester Fringe Festival. She has worked with artists Enza Farrari, Håkan Hagegård, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Chris Merritt, Hugh Murphy, Federico Sacchi, Benton Hess, Thomas Baird, Nicole Cabell, and Karina Gauvin in various masterclasses, coachings, and workshops. Ashley has previously studied with Kristine Ciesinski and Katherine Ciesinski.
Isaac Carlin (Dulcamara- Cast A)
From Omaha, Nebraska, Isaac is a senior in vocal performance with two unofficial minors in German and Spanish. Recent credits include Valens in Handel’s Theodora and the title role in The Mikado, both at BYU; Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and Leporello in Don Giovanni, both at Utah Vocal Arts Academy.
Mitchell Wassom (Dulcamara- Cast B)
Mitchell is from McKinney, Texas. He recently finished his senior year at BYU with a major in biostatistics and a minor in mathematics. He will continue here for his Master’s in statistics in the fall. Music plays a key role in Mitchell’s life. He has been in two operas at BYU – Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Gianni Schicchi, but this is his first time playing a major role. He likes sports, food, and spending time with people.
Fernando Lorenzo (Belcore- Cast A)
Born in Petrópolis, Brazil, Fernando has appeared in many opera productions and in concerts in Brazil and United States. He has performed 10 major opera roles and had important contributions in Brazilian music, being a soloist in the world premiere of the “Matinas do Carmo” by Pe Nunes Garcia, a work that influenced the composition of the national anthem of Brazil and in the first recording of “Missa Sexta” by Francisco Mignone. He is finishing his Master of Music program at BYU, where he studies with professor Darrell Babidge. Fernando received his Bachelor Degree in Music in Brazil at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Logan Reid (Belcore- Cast B)
Logan Reid is from McKinney, Texas and is a freshman in Vocal Performance at BYU. He was previously seen as Aeneas in BYU’s production of Dido and Aeneas. He also was in BYU’s Opera Scenes, portraying Ford from Falstaff and Gugliemo from Cosi Fan Tutte.
Hyejoon Kim (Gianetta- Cast A)
From South Korea, Hyejoon is a senior in vocal performance. Recent credits include Yum Yum from The Mikado at BYU, La Ciesca from Gianni Schicchi at BYU, and will be playing Antonia in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing this Fall. She is the first in her family to pursue the arts and looks forward to future performances.
Camilla Andelin (Gianetta- Cast B)
Camilla Andelin is a sophomore in vocal performance from Orem, Utah. She recently performed in a selection of scenes from Macbeth as part of the witches chorus, and in Cosi fan Tutte as Dorabella at BYU. She competed at a regional level at the National Association for Teachers of Singing and was awarded 2nd place; she was invited to continue the competition in Minnesota at the national conference.
Courtney Lawson (Chorusmaster/Adina Cover)
From Aubrey, Texas, Courtney Lawson is a sophomore in vocal performance. She was recently seen as Belinda in BYU’s production of Dido and Aeneas, as well as Helwige in The Ride of the Valkyries and a Witch Chorus member in the Witches Chorus from BYU’s Opera Scenes. She most recently competed in the Classical Singer Competition in Chicago, Illinois where she advanced to the semi-final round.