Opera Daily 🎶 — The Elixir of Love

(L’Elisir d’Amore premiered at The Metropolitan Opera in 1904 starring this legend, Enrico Caruso, in the role of Nemorino)

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Today we’re listening to “Una furtiva lagrima” from Act II of the Italian opera L’Elisir d’Amore by Gaetano Donizetti. Written in the bel canto style, L’Elisir d'Amore (translated from Italian as “The Elixir of Love”) is the most popular of Donizetti's works and was first performed in 1832 in Milan. 

The Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Flórez, is singing the role of Nemorino (neh-mohr-EEN-oh) here. The aria is oozing bel canto (delicate shading of the phrases, tons of high notes, and elaborate ornamentation of the melody). Beauty is the word that comes to mind when I think bel canto. As I mentioned in the first post in the series, unlike our modern understanding that a composer includes all the notes a singer is supposed to sing, singers were expected to add to the written music. One place a singer can showcase their voice is during the cadenzas (short passages for the voice in an improvised-like style) and they are everywhere in this opera.

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And yes! The Elixir of Love gives us a happy ending! Nemorino is in love with Adina, but Adina won’t give him the time of day. After hearing the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Nemorino wonders if a love potion might do the trick to get Adina (ah-DEE-nah) to love him and he finds a man who sells him a “potion” (that’s just wine). Nemorino thinks the potion has made him more desirable to Adina, but she has had feelings for him all along. 

Nemorino hopes for love and sings “Una furtiva lagrima” when he discovers that Adina cares for him after all. He sees what he thinks is a tear in her eye (the aria's name translates to "a secret tear").

A single secret tear from her eye did spring:
as if she envied all the youths that laughingly passed her by.
What more searching need I do?
She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
For just an instant the beating of her beautiful heart I could feel!
As if my sighs were hers, and her sighs were mine!
Heavens! Yes, I could die!
I could ask for nothing more, nothing more.
Yes, I could die! Yes, I could die of love.

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Still interested? Want more?

  • The name Nemorino means “the little nobody” and comes from the Latin word for nobody (nemo).

  • In the opera, Adina buys Nemorino’s military service contract so he does not have to go to war. I read that this happened to Donizetti, too and he didn’t have to serve in the Austrian army.

  • What is opera buffa? It’s Italian for comic opera and originated in Naples in the early 18th century.

  • L'Elisir d'Amore premiered at The Metropolitan Opera in 1904 starring Enrico Caruso. Caruso singing this aria is not to be missed.

Thank you for listening,

Michele

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