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 When the 'Country Bumpkin' becomes a millionaire

By Sigurd Neubauer


The pursuit of a woman out of your own league can be either trilling or daunting, depending, of course, on one’s own circumstances in life. If the woman is beautiful, graceful, and wealthy, while the suitor, let’s say, resembles George Costanza – both figuratively or literally – you know how the story ends. Yet, in the world of culture, the improbable romance between a man of humble origin and a woman of means has been lionized. This classic fairytale comes in many versions, but in opera, Gaetano Donizetti’s (1797-1848) The Elixir of Love, stands out for both its musical splendor and comedic brilliance. 

For Donizetti, the composer of 70 operas, the Elixir was number 40.  It premiered on May 12, 1832,  at the Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan, Italy.

The portrait above is of Donizetti by Giuseppe Rillosi, 1848.

In the modern era, Nemorino, the young peasant pursuing the wealthy and beautiful Adina, has been immortalized by no other than Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). 

In fact, Pavarotti’s late widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, told us in a recent interview that the role of Nemorino was one of those that he loved that most. 

But in many ways, what distinguishes the Elixir from so many operas, is the role of Dr. Dulcamara, who provides nearly unlimited comedic relief.  Even though he’s a charlatan, Dr. Dulcamara is also a sympathetic character. And so too is Nemorino’s main rival, the handsome Sergeant Belcore. His troops are impeccably dressed as would be expected from an Italian regiment.

Without giving too much of the plot away, Nemorino ultimately prevails in his pursuit of Adina by becoming a millionaire, literally, overnight. 

All that is good ends well.

One of Pavarotti’s numerous lasting contributions to the world of opera is his interpretation of Una furtiva lacrima (A furtive tear).

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