The opera season begins in a big way with an all-Donizetti weekend. Arizona Opera opens its season this evening with a production of Lucia di Lammermoor followed, bright & early tomorrow morning, by the HD broadcast of L’elisir d’amore; live from The Met.
[Spoiler Alert!] Lucia di Lammermoor is a tragic opera. Imagine a mash-up of Romeo & Juliet and Medea set in 17th century Scotland. Two families are feuding. The daughter of one is in love with the son of the other but their happiness is not to be. Forced by her brother to marry someone else, our heroine goes through with the wedding but then kills her new husband, off-stage thank heavens, immediately after the ceremony. Then she comes back in her blood-soaked Vera Wang and wanders around the reception acting like Carrie at the Prom.
Humor aside, it is a wonderful opera and a wonderful showcase for the right singer. Donizetti wrote it in 1835 at what was arguably the peak of his career. Bellini having recently died and with Rossini in retirement Donizetti was the reigning king of ‘Bel Canto’ opera. I have seen this opera before, most recently in the Met’s production with Natalie Dessay in the title role. Arizona Opera is not The Met so I am not expecting Ms. Dessay but I am looking forward to seeing it.
Tomorrow morning the curtain goes up, metaphorically speaking, on L’elisir d’amore; The Elixir of Love. The 1:00 PM matinée performance from New York is broadcast live so it starts at 10:00 AM here. [Spoiler Alert!] More melodrama than tragedy, the story centers around a poor peasant who is love with a shameless hussy who teases him and then gets engaged to the first soldier that comes along. The peasant spends all his money on a love potion from a passing quack which, shockingly, does not work. Rather than giving up and finding a nice girl, he joins the army to get a signing bonus and uses the money to buy more potion; apparently unfazed that it didn’t work the first time and equally unfazed by that fact that, even if the potion does work, he’ll be off to war the next day. The potion still doesn’t work but, in the meantime, the little tart has learned that the poor peasant inherited money from a now-dead rich uncle. Miraculously, she realizes she’s loved him all along and dumps the soldier. I don’t believe I have seen this opera before so I am looking forward to it. I was surprised to learn that it is the most often-performed of Donizetti’s operas.
All this culture is not without its cost. I will need to get up earlier than normal to take Harper to the Dog Park. It is not a Saturday without the Dog Park. Also, she will not be joining us for the opera. It’s not that she is not a sophisticated consumer of the arts; mind you. She just prefers Baroque to Bel Canto.