It would be hard to imagine a better performance of Donizetti's comic masterpiece. If there was one role that ideally suited Luciano Pavarotti's voice and stage personality, it was Nemorino, the impoverished and not-very-bright peasant who worships the village's prettiest and richest young woman from a distance, is swindled by a traveling vendor of "miracle" medicines, but wins her hand by dumb luck. The story has comedy, pathos, and a put-down of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (or at least the Tristan story) written long before Wagner composed it.
This studio recording was made in 1989 coinciding with a memorable production from the Metropolitan Opera, later captured on DVD. It's a delightful performance, and a wonderful highlight of Pavarotti's later career. Kathleen Battle's sparkling soprano is a brilliant accompaniment to Pavarotti's still-ringing tone.
"Pavarotti's voice was still beautiful and pliable, his phrasing exquisite. And he loved the role of Nemorino and always seemed happy with both its comedy and pathos–he steals every scene he's in, and no one minds…Kathleen Battle sings Adina with perfect, pearl-like tone, absolute fluency and commitment, and a trill to die for…Enzo Dara is an ideal Dulcamara, just the right combination of huckster and sentimentalist, with ease in every register and with fast music."
– Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Rolando Villazón as Nemorino exhibits a real gift for comic acting, manipulating his rubber face into dozens of hilarious poses, flawlessly turning stock comic gestures into laugh-out-loud moments, and even juggling apples with the panache of a circus performer. More important, he uses his lyric tenor to sing the part with impressive subtlety, suggesting Nemorino's desperation while singing of his love for Adina. His big show-stopper, "Una furtiva lagrima," features melting pianissimos and a breathtaking decrescendo in its final phrase. Netrebko's Adina is every bit as good, with deft acting and a lovely lyric soprano voice that makes you understand why she's the only girl for Nemorino.
When Donizetti’s comedy, updated to the mid-20th century by the Uruguayan-born director Mario Gas, was mounted at Barcelona’s magnificent Liceu opera house in 2005, Opera News wrote that: “The absolute hit of the production was … Rolando Villazón, a commanding, vulnerable and hilarious Nemorino. His stage presence dominated every scene he was in …[and] his lovable innocence was a joy to behold. Villazón’s perfect technique and creamy, malleable voice conquered the audience … His athletic and expressive body language–midway between Cantinflas and Mr. Bean–fits this role and this production perfectly.” The Mexican tenor, making his debut at the Liceu, was called upon the encore the opera’s most famous aria, the plaintive ‘Una furtiva lagrima’.
Donizetti's rollicking comic opera The Elixir of Love receives a scintillating performance in this early 1970's London/Decca recording. Featuring an unbeatable cast, headed by Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti, this wonderful interpretation demonstrates singing of the highest levels of artistic integrity- definitive, passionate, lyrical, committed. The English Chamber Orchestra responds to Richard Bonynge's direction to provide sharp, colorful orchestral support, and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus' performance can only be described as brilliant.
This black-and-white, wonderfully old-fashioned film of a live performance of L'elisir d'amore, complete with faded painted backdrops and no attempt to update or "make relevant" this delicious work, is, well, delicious–gorgeously sung and charmingly acted. The pedigree is impeccable. I can't recall a recent performance of an Italian opera with all-Italian forces, including conductor, and at the risk of sounding chauvinistically Italian, there really is something elegant and natural about an entire cast steeped in the language, rhythms, and idiom that keeps the Italian-opera tradition alive.–Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
The Decca performance of the Donizetti comic masterpiece L'Elisir d'amore is simply the best ever put on record. With the incomparable trio of Sutherland/Pavarotti/Bonynge at the peak of their careers, this performance of L'Elisir is one that you will turn to again and again – sheer delight from the first moments of the overture to the grand finale. One has to admit that some of Pavarotti's later performances can be difficult to listen to because of the strain in the voice, but not a hint of strain mars his performance here…