Discover the story of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
A 19th-century Italian village
As the harvesters take a midday break, the landowner Adina reads about Tristan and Isolde, while the lovesick peasant Nemorino adores her from afar. Adina mockingly relates how the legendary lovers were enchanted by a magical love potion. A troop of soldiers march in, led by the handsome Sergeant Belcore, who boldly proposes marriage to Adina. After she deflects him, she is left alone with the yearning Nemorino. Adina advises Nemorino to go visit his wealthy uncle, who is ill. She warns him that she is capricious and will never settle down. But Nemorino insists that he will continue to love her faithfully. The quack Dr. Dulcamara arrives, hawking his beauty treatments and miracle cures. Nemorino asks him if he carries Isolde’s love potion, so Dulcamara sells him an ‘elixir of love’ which is actually just a bottle of cheap wine, telling him that it will take effect in one day. Nemorino guzzles the “elixir” and, feeling emboldened, approaches Adina, telling her that she will be his in just 24 hours. Belcore arrives to demand Adina’s answer to his marriage proposal. Just to spite the overconfident Nemorino, Adina agrees to marry Belcore in six days. But when the soldiers suddenly receive an order to leave town the next morning, Adina agrees to marry Belcore that very day. Nemorino pleads with her to wait just one day longer, but to no avail.
As the wedding celebrations begin, Adina is upset that Nemorino has not turned up. He finally arrives, begging Dulcamara to give him a faster-acting elixir. Dulcamara, planning to leave town within the hour, offers him a second bottle, but Nemorino has no money to pay for it. Belcore arrives, wondering why Adina is delaying their wedding until the evening. He finds Nemorino desperate for money, so offers him 20 scudi, cash on the spot, to join the army. Nemorino agrees, takes the money, and leaves in search of Dulcamara. Meanwhile, the village is buzzing with the news that Nemorino’s rich uncle has died and left him a fortune. Nemorino, who has not yet heard the news, is amazed to find every female in the village fawning over him, which he attributes to the effects of the elixir. Adina, too, is mystified, and Dulcamara boasts of the elixir’s magic. Adina suddenly realizes her feelings for Nemorino and resolves to win him back. She finds him and tells him that, to keep him from leaving the village, she has bought back his army contract. But Nemorino insists that if Adina doesn’t love him, he’d just as soon die a soldier. Finally, Adina admits that she does love him. Belcore enters, and Adina cancels their wedding. But Belcore is unbothered; there are thousands more women for him. As all ends happily, Dulcamara leaves to peddle his elixirs to the wide world.
Watch L’elisir d’amore on demand
The 2009 production of L'elisir d'amore is available to watch on-demand by subscribing to Glyndebourne Encore - our streaming service.