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March 6, 2012 5:59 pm
Peter Gelb, the not always diplomatic general-manager of the Met, doesn’t like the 20-year-old production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore that was revived on Monday. In a recent New York Times interview he called it “cute” and expressed relief that it would be replaced next season.
It is easy to agree with his assessment of Beni Montresor’s pastel-cartoon designs and John Copley’s gag-oriented staging (currently entrusted to Stephen Pickover). Still, one had to wonder how the stellar cast on duty felt about such disparaging remarks from the boss.
Everyone worked hard – probably too hard – to simulate high spirits. The result, something of a free-for-all, often suggested comic frenzy bordering on desperation. Fortunately, there was strong musical compensation.
Donato Renzetti, absent from the house since 1989, may not be the most imaginative conductor in the world, but he is a reassuring old pro. On this occasion, he demonstrated respect for tradition and accompanied the singers with indulgent sympathy.
The chief attraction (still not magnetic enough to sell all 4,000 tickets) must have been Juan Diego Flórez as the lovesick, intellectually challenged Nemorino. Although the role offers no opportunities to explore the vocal stratosphere that is his speciality, the tenor wrapped his slender, acutely focused tone around the graceful cantilena with elegance. And, although he attempted no trills, he earned a huge ovation after sensitively polishing off the hit tune, “Una furtiva lagrima”. He interpolated a few high notes, which was fine. He also interpolated a lot of balletic-athletic prancing, which was not so fine.
Diana Damrau matched him, expressive nuance for nuance, as an Adina of vital charm, climactic brilliance and dynamic finesse. Mariusz Kwiecien strutted with beguiling point through the smug bluster and baritonal whimsy of Sergeant Belcore. Alessandro Corbelli, back as the quack Dulcamara, made up in buffonesque savoir-faire for what he now lacks in resonance. Layla Claire, like all Giannettas, simpered sweetly.
These good people certainly deserve a better production. Only Kwiecien, however, will return when Gelb’s new Elisir opens in September. A pity.
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