Learn about the characters in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
Charismatic and wealthy, Adina is the queen of her small town – just a little bit prettier, cleverer and more confident than the other girls. But although she claims that she would like a different lover every day, Adina really only has eyes for one man: Nemorino. She teases him and plays games with his feelings – even going so far as to become engaged to the handsome Sergeant Belcore. But when he declares his true feelings she sets pretence aside and admits her own love.
Adina’s music is as flirtatious and light-footed as the heroine herself. Just listen to her first aria ‘Della crudele Isotta’. She gathers the whole village together while she tells them the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde, even enlisting them as backing singers to her solo diva. The story may be sad, but Adina always finds the light, the joyful, the entertaining in it.
Nemorino is often described as a ‘male Cinderella’, which is a good way to see this gentle, unassuming hero whose name literally translates as ‘little nobody’. Kind, easy-going and very soft-hearted, Nemorino isn’t one to push himself forwards, preferring to blend into the crowd. But he is head-over-heels in love with Adina, and desperate to summon the courage to tell her how he feels.
Nemorino’s music is sweeter and gentler than Adina’s glittering brilliance. He’s very sincere but much less sure of himself. You can hear both his optimism and his more cautious spirit here.
Dr Dulcamara is a smooth-talking salesman who could sell ice to the Eskimos. Travelling around the country on his cart he advertises his ‘remedies’ for everything from hair-loss to halitosis. Whether he’s a real doctor, and whether his medicine actually works, is doubtful. Dulcamara may be a quack and a swindler, but he carries it off with bags of charm and boundless energy.
You can hear the persuasive patter of a born salesman in his first aria ‘Udite, udite, O rustici!’ (Listen, all you townsfolk) in which he mesmerises the small-town community with his overwhelming, exhausting list of all the ailments he can cure.
Sergeant Belcore swaggers into Adina and Nemorino’s small town brimming with confidence. No sooner does he arrive and spot Adina than he proposes marriage – confident that he has already swept her off her feet.
Belcore’s music has two very different characters. A brisk, strutting military march sets up his important position in the army, but is swiftly followed in ‘Come Paride’ (As charming Paris) with music more selfconsciously amorous – a well-practised serenade for Adina.
Image credits: L’elisir d’amore, Festival 2011, photos by Bill Cooper