Discover the story of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
Peasant Nemorino is madly in love with Adina. But she’s wealthy, popular and beautiful and he doesn’t dare to declare his love. Resting from the summer heat one day, Adina tells the villagers the story of Tristan and Isolde, who only found love after drinking a magic potion. Nemorino wishes that he too could find a potion and win Adina’s love.
Suddenly the villagers hear the noise of approaching trumpets and drums. Handsome Sergeant Belcore arrives, seeking billets for his men. The confident soldier soon makes an impression on Adina. And her attractions don’t go unnoticed either. Belcore almost immediately proposes to her. Nemorino despairs; his happy ending seems further away than ever.
A trumpet fanfare announces the arrival of another stranger. Dr Dulcamara is a travelling quack, who promises remedies for any ailment – mental or physical – that the villagers may be suffering. Nemorino asks for a love potion and the Doctor hands one over, telling him it will only work after 24 hours. What Nemorino doesn’t know is that the potion is just wine.
Nemorino sips the “potion” and gradually feels its effect. Suddenly more confident he is rude to Adina – after all, she’ll love him in 24 hours, whatever he does. Understandably angry, Adina agrees to marry Belcore. But when new orders arrive commanding his departure, the couple are forced to marry that same day. Nemorino desperately pleads with Adina to wait just one more day, but she refuses. Everyone heads off to prepare for the wedding celebrations.
Nemorino drinks it and, feeling an immediate effect, tries its influence on Adina; he feels sure that she will be his within 24 hours.
Belcore enters, reinstating his claims. To spite the newly confident Nemorino, Adina agrees to marry Belcore in six days. Nemorino is exultant. But suddenly a despatch arrives ordering the soldiers away the following morning. Adina agrees to bring the marriage forward to that very day.
Nemorino pleads with her to wait one day longer, but to no avail. As the preparations begin, he is in despair.
All is ready for the signing of the marriage contract but Adina keeps delaying the ceremony. Meanwhile Nemorino is in despair. He begs Dulcamara for more potion, but has no more money. Belcore, keen to get rid of his rival, offers to pay him to enlist, and Nemorino agrees – signing away his life to the army.
Nemorino’s rich uncle has died, leaving him a wealthy man. The girls of the village hear the news and instantly turn all their attention on Nemorino, who hasn’t been told, and believes that it is merely the effect of the love potion. Adina, who hasn’t heard the news either, is confused and annoyed. But when Dulcamara explains to her about the love potion and Belcore’s offer she suddenly understands Nemorino’s true feelings for her.
Paying Belcore back his recruitment fee, Adina returns the contract to Nemorino and they both finally admit their love. Belcore is irritated, but is certain that there will be plenty of other women. Dulcamara is overjoyed. Here is proof of the power of his potion – instant love and wealth! All the village celebrates, each buying their own bottle of “potion”, just in case.
Words by: Alexandra Coghlan