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
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
Frank Dunlop's witty, unvarnished view of Donizetti's country comedy, updated to the 1930s, is delightful to see, wondrous to hear. Gheorghiu and Alagna make an ideal partnership as capricious girl and shy bumpkin. They both act and sing their roles to near perfection in a staging that exposes the heart and heartlessness as much as the fun of this work.
This wonderful performance, taken from the stage of the Met in 1992 (and probably with a fix-up session or two), is a grand remembrance of two great singers who have since collapsed in different ways. Pavarotti already was uncomfortably fat when this was taped, but neither his breath nor his physical movements had been badly affected–that happened a mere two or three years later. At 57, the 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. (The Met recorded another L'elisir with him in 1981, and he is marginally better in every way–and at least 75 pounds lighter and therefore more agile on stage; but that performance is currently unavailable.)… –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.
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…