Switzerland Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore, Chorus of the Zurich Opera, Philharmonia Zurich, Giacomo Sagripanti (conductor), Zurich Opera, Zurich, 05.07.15 (RP)
Adina: Eleonora Buratto
Nemorino: Pavol Breslik
Belcore: Massimo Cavalletti
Dulcamara: Lucio Gallo
Giannetta: Hamida Kristoffersen
Ducamara’s companion: Jan Pezzali
Director: Grischa Asagaroff
Stage and Costume Design: Tullio Pericoli
Stage Design: Gigi Saccomandi
Chorus Master: Jürg Hämmerli
Lighting: Jürgen Hoffmann
Word that a singer with the star wattage of Diana Damrau has cancelled on short notice is usually greeted with more than a bit of dismay. But when I learned that Eleonora Buratto was stepping in to sing Adina in the final performance of the Zurich Opera’s revival of L’elisir d’amore, I was more intrigued than frustrated. I had seen Buratto in 2012 as Amelia in Simon Boccanegra at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma with Riccardo Muti conducting. I recalled a poised, elegant soprano and was eager to hear her as Donizetti’s Adina. As last minute replacements go, this one portended good things.
Her beauty, voice and pluck charmed the Zurich audience. There is a lot of movement in this production, complete with dance numbers. Buratto was truly part of the ensemble, due in no small part to the generosity of her male costars. At times she had her eyes glued on the conductor, but who wouldn’t? Was this a polished vocal performance? No, but that would be far too much to expect, and there was a metallic edge to her forcefully sung high notes. She planted herself firmly on stage and gave them all she had, her voice soaring above all in the finales. She also proved herself a compelling actress. Her finest moment was perhaps near the end, when she begs Nemorino to forgive her and expresses her love for him. She could finally just stand still and sing, and it was beautiful.
The star of the performance, however, was Pavol Breslik. His physical and vocal transformation, from a naïve, idealistic boy desperate to gain the love of the girl with whom he falls in love at first sight to a man brimming with confidence because the woman he loves indeed loves him, was endearing. That he fervently believes the elixir worked its magic only added to this Nemorino’s charms. Few roles provide the tenor which such lovely arias. “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara” opens the opera, and his beautiful tenor, with its subtle, grainy texture, was brimming with youthful ardor. He melted hearts with “Una furtiva lagrima,” when he realizes that Adina’s single tear is the sign that she does indeed love him.
Massimo Cavalletti’s Belcore was a preening peacock of a man, complete with a full resonant baritone voice and dashing dark looks. One could not take him too seriously, however, with an absurd plume atop his helmet and a red pompon at the tip of the tail of his jacket. Dulcamara sported a wig that was a bit Marge Simpson and a costume that was a riot of clashing designs and colors. Lucio Gallo may have looked ridiculous, but his Dulcamara was a hard-nosed opportunist, with delicious command of text and tone.
As one would expect, the musical values were at a high level. Urs Dengler’s bassoon solo in the opening bars of “Una furtiva lagrima” was just as achingly beautiful as Breslik’s singing which followed. But there were moments when conductor Giacomo Sagripanti had to work hard to get the chorus up to speed. On more than one occasion they sauntered onstage a bit too leisurely, and their singing lagged behind too. Sagripanti was another of Buratto’s gallant costars, and he assisted her in spinning beautiful lines with perfect balance between orchestra and singer.
This production of L’elisir d’amore, several years old, remains a delight to the eye. The stage is awash in Palladian architectural details and the muted palette of an Umbrian landscape, full of fanciful fruits and vegetables (the workers are gathering the harvest when the opera opens). It is rare to find a director that just lets an audience sit back and enjoy an overture, but Grischa Asagaroff is one such person. And with the exquisite playing of the Philharmonia Zurich, especially its fine woodwinds, it was a moment to savor.
Buratto made her stage debut as Adina here, and she is scheduled to sing it at La Scala later this year. I wish that I could be there: she has all the goods. If the cast and production are as fine as Zurich’s, she should be magical, but that is a tall order to fill.