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  • A Feel-Good Elixir

    By COC Staff

    Reuniting at the COC for Donizetti's Most Popular Comedy
    By Kristin McKinnon, Publicist and Publications Co-ordinator


    Who doesn’t love a good rom-com? Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love is a bubbly concoction of romance, humour and beautiful bel canto. It’ a timeless story that sees a kind-hearted but impoverished young man sees the powers of a “magic” potion to win the woman of his dreams. But unlike the Tristan and Isolde myth, which the opera nods to (and Richard Wagner would adapt to very different effect in his famous music drama more than 30 years later), love triumphs and the good guy wins out in the end. It serves as a perfect showcase for the three recent Ensemble Studio graduates to reunite on the Four Seasons Centre stage: tenor Andrew Haji stars as the love-struck Nemorino, alongside soprano Simone Osborne as the object of his affection, Adina, and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, as the pompous Sergeant Belcore. We checked in with them to find out what they love most about Donizetti’s popular comedy.

    Whether comedy or opera seria, Donizetti’s soaring bel canto music (literally translated as “beautiful singing”) is always a main draw for audiences and singers alike. “The music is stunningly beautiful,” says Andrew, singling out the famous “Una furtiva lagrima” aria which he sings in the second act. Both Simone and Gordon agree that their characters are served well by Donizetti’s music. “(He) is a true singer’s composer,” says Simone. “There are so many glorious lines that all of his characters get to spin out over the course of the performance.” Gordon adds that the opera “is an absolute joy to sing and Belcore’s music is some of my very favourite in opera. Donizetti is a master of capturing the character of text in his musical setting. His melodies perfectly portray the spirit of each individual character and their unique tone of expression.”

    Andrew is also drawn to Donizetti’s characterizations. “The characters are relatable and endearing,” he says. “What I love most about Nemorino is his honesty, sincerity, and his determination. He is a good, kind person who will stop at nothing to win the adoration of the girl he loves. Of course, he’s also very naive but his optimism and sincerity are traits we could all stand to have a bit more of.” On playing Adina, Simone agrees that “the characters are completely approachable, believable, and in the case of Adina, multi-faceted. She’s headstrong and feisty, bright and well-read, independent and forward thinking. She is a total feminist before her time! The role has always been on my bucket list and to debut her at the COC is a dream come true.”

    The familiar storyline is made all the more charming by director James Robinson’s nostalgic production. Set in a quaint, unnamed rural town one the eve of the First World War, it’s reminiscent of Niagara-on-the-Lake or, to fans of Canadian literature and television, even Avonlea. Previous incarnations of the production incorporated local touches into the set and costumes, depending on the location of each performance–Napa Valley for San Francisco, a frontier feel for Colorado and the Toronto version is no exception. “I think it’s a brilliant concept,” says Andrew. “I have a great appreciation for making the story of an opera more relevant to the audience. It makes the opera seem more real; more like something that might actually have happened in your own hometown.” Simone agrees, adding that “we are fortunate with Elixir to not have any specific political figures or events referenced, so we are able to change the time period of the story while remaining completely true to the score. James has made the show fun and fresh for opera veterans and even more approachable for new opera-goers.”

    Its approachability, along with its charm and levity, mean it’s no surprise that The Elixir of Love is one of the most-performed operas of all time. “(It’s) a feel-good opera,” says Gordon. “The music is joyful, beautiful, exciting, and, at times, heart-wrenching.” Simone adds: “The comedic plot provides some much-needed respite from the complicated times we find ourselves living in. It’s one of the few operas where nobody dies at the end, and (almost) everyone skips off the stage filled with glee!”

    This on-stage reunion will be a real treat for audience members who have followed the burgeoning international careers of Andrew, Simone and Gordon from their earliest days as promising young artists in the Ensemble Studio. (Simone’s career has taken her from Japan to Zurich, while Andrew and Gordon arrived at Elixir rehearsals straight from the prestigious Salzburg Festival.)  Returning home to sing the lead roles in a COC production is something the trio looks forward to as well, especially real-life husband and wife Gordon and Simone who sing together in a mainstage production for the first time*. “It’s always a complete delight to come back and perform at the COC,” says Simone, “but this time it’s especially wonderful as I am joining two other recent Ensemble Studio graduates whose artistry I have long-admired. I hope we’ll be able to create something quite special for all of you.”

    Posted in The Elixir of Love

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