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Summer Opera To Lighten Moods


Gaetano Donizetti

Will you partake of this potion? Is it a con? All will be revealed as the Boston Midsummer Opera (BMO) presents Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (Elixir of Love) for its 12th season. The show runs on July 26, 28 and 30, at the Mainstage Theater of the Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown.

How will the penniless peasant Nemorino and the bewitching but fickle Adina find the key to love? Can Nemorino win her heart only by buying a magical elixir?

Nemorino (Eric Barry) is head over heels for Adina (Joanna Mongiardo), but to no avail. When she promises to marry Sargent Belcore (Keith Phares), Nemorino seeks out a love potion from a traveling quack, Dr. Dulcamara (Jason Budd), with which he hopes to turn her head even though it smells suspiciously like cheap bordeaux. When Giannetta (Erica Petrocelli) and the village girls start to pay him some attention, he becomes convinced it works. Adina is mad with jealousy—so can it be that she loves him after all?

The Elixir of Love will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. There is a pre-opera talk one hour before each performance. Noted director Antonio Ocampo-Guzman will stage the production and nationally acclaimed conductor Susan Davenny Wyner will lead the BMO orchestra. The design team includes Stephen Dobay, (sets), John Cuff, (lighting), and Elisabetta Polito (costumes).

BMInt: Susan Davenny Wyner has inerrant taste in bringing to summer audiences examples of lightish opera that is perfect for the weather and our wishes to smile rather than furrow our brows.

The plot of L’elisir d’amore is more romantic than dramatic, but the work raises expectations for great singing, since some of the arias are particularly emblematic of Italian opera. If one had to pick a single example, it would be Caruso’s rendition of “Una furtiva lagrima.” Will your singers be able to add vintage bubbles to Davenny Wyner’s contemporary froth?

AG: I think so. Susan and I are proudly old-fashioned in our taste. the singers are quite excellent technically, but more important are exquisite at expression.

A small orchestra in a dry hall works for an accompaniment that is basically a big guitar. We should not expect Wagnerian sumptuousness. What can we expect of the players?

That’s more a question for Susan, but I’d say that you can expect an orchestra that is more than a guitar – rather, another very important player in the space. There is an ongoing conversation between the singers and the orchestra. Sometimes the orchestra deepens the expression and sometimes it offers a contrast to it.

The company brings back many returnees over the years. Why not make this a fulltime company or at least give a winter season with some deeper fare?

Great question. It’s not an easy or inexpensive enterprise.

Unlike some Boston opera companies, there is a place for local singers.

Baritone Keith Phares (Belcore), for instance, was at New England Conservatory for his master’s and studied with John Moriarty, who has fostered the careers of many of the leading singers today, including Keith. Keith won the Met audition regionals here in Boston and was one of the five finalists in NY (there is no overall winner) while he was studying with John. John is also on the BMO’s advisory board and has been instrumental in helping with translations. They used his translation of Merry Wives and last year’s Il Campanello. His work sounds indispensable.

Dr. Dulcamara (Jason Budd), Adina (Joanna Mongiardo), and (Keith Phares) (Christopher McKenzie photo)

And the company did not have to look to Europe for its stage director. The Elixir of Love marks your fourth production with the BMO: Nicolai’s  Merry Wives of Windsor in 2013, Smetana’s  Bartered Bride in 2014 and last year’s double bill of Campanello and L’amico Fritz. Originally from Bogotá, you are a professor at Northeastern. Your husband, Doug, is a well-known actor / director. Next December you will direct Man of La Mancha at New Rep. If the past is a guide, you will give us an imaginative staging that is respectful of the sources rather than a directorial conceit. Tell us what we will be looking at here.

There are two main things. One is the intimacy of the Mosesian stage. It’s so delightful to witness an opera up close and personal, with sound and action all around you, not just in front. It helps us reconsider some traditional assumptions about the characters. Which is the second thing: Nemorino is not a fool. He is called a fool because in such a nasty world, his innocence and his eternal optimism are frowned upon. Although, as you say, this is such a tenor opera, the story truly belongs to Adina, who has the most exciting journey and the most complex character. As a young woman of means, she wants to make her own choices, and has a huge conflict to resolve.

Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love
July 26, 28 & 30
The Mainstage Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown

Tickets, $62 to $52 for all performances, are on sale at; by calling Mosesian Center for the Arts box office at 617-923-8487; or by mailing a request to Boston Midsummer Opera, PO 301, Charles Street Station, Boston MA 02114. For more information, visit

Founded in 2006, Boston Midsummer Opera creates vibrant experiences designed to ward off the summer doldrums. BMO makes opera both accessible and affordable by mounting dynamic productions with nationally and internationally known artists who will attract new listeners as well as appeal to discriminating opera fans.

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