Name: L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love)
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Librettist: Felice Romani
First performed: 12 May 1832 at the Teatro della Canobbiana, Milan
In one sentence: poor village boy Nemorino is besotted with the wealthy Adina, but she rejects his declarations of love; fortunately the quack Doctor Dulcamara is on hand with a ‘love potion’ to help him win her heart.
Famous characters: Nemorino is the poor peasant in love with the wealthy Adina; his rival in love Belcore; a travelling quack, Dr Dulcamara. Luciano Pavarotti played the love-lorn Nemorino three times, while the role has also been sung by Placido Domingo. Joan Sutherland was Pavarotti’s Adina in his first outing in the part.
Music you might recognise: light, romantic and lyrical, the dazzling melodies reach their peak with ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (‘A furtive tear’), Nemorino’s enchanting aria.
One of the best loved – and most-regularly performed – of all Donizetti’s operas, this two-act romantic comedy follows the fortunes of poor villager Nemorino who is in love with wealthy, beautiful heiress Adina. She rejects him and travelling quack Dr Dulcamara takes advantage of the desperate Nemorino, selling him a fake love potion – really just red wine. Drunk on the wine, Nemorino feigns indifference to Adina and in her confusion she agrees to marry the arrogant Sergeant Belcore.
Nemorino begs Dulcamara for another, stronger potion. The quack is only too happy to oblige. However, unbeknown to Nemorino and Adina, he has come into an inheritance and is now a wealthy man. The village women pursue him and Adina’s jealousy grows; does she love him after all? The pair kiss – and are caught in an embrace by Belcore. The wedding is off, the happy couple admit their feelings and Belcore shrugs it off, saying there are plenty of women in the world. Even Dulcamara is happy as his love potions appear to work and are suddenly in great demand. Disproving the theory that opera must end in tragedy, they all live happily ever after.
The village girls flirt with the newly rich Nemorino while a jealous Adina can only look on (Joeforemperor via Wikimedia Commons).