Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Features and More

Review: 'Elixir of Love' is less sweeping than many operas, but more fun than most

ST. PETERSBURG

Here's a one-question poll. Suppose your favorite comedian was coming through town.

But for the same ticket price, you could instead attend a "comic opera" written in the 19th century. Ask 20 people on the streets of St. Petersburg which show they would rather attend.

It wouldn't be close. But here's why you should consider taking the long shot. The Elixir of Love, the St. Petersburg Opera Company's latest, is actually funny.

Gaetano Donizetti's opera unfolds with relative simplicity and a cast of five (not including the chorus). No one assumes someone else's identity by wearing a mask on a stick. There are no deposed kings or singing statues, and somehow no one is stabbed to death.

Instead you get the story of a poor man's love for a haughty farm owner, gift-wrapped in the composer's bel canto style. That style accentuates the voice, often through legato phrasings that allow singers to settle into sustained notes. If done well, it is something to savor, and that is especially true with these leads. Blake Friedman as Nemorino, the peasant in love with Adina, offers up some lovely cascades, including several a cappella bars on the steps outside her second-floor doorway (a suitable place for the top of his range, which Friedman handled effortlessly).

Two intermediaries alter the course of things. Belcore, a vainglorious army sergeant played with a dark voice and charm by Christopher Holloway, wants to marry Adina. Nemorino's only hope is Dr. Dulcamara, a huckster who is passing through town selling a magic potion.

Since he's a few dollars short, the quack doctor hands him a bottle of wine and tells him it is the elixir. Nemorino believes it, and that belief gives him newfound confidence. Pieces fall predictably into place from there, and it's fun to watch that happen.

A smaller cast left more room for Michael Becker to create a fuller set than the opera company has unveiled recently. The cast and a bright chorus directed under stage director Melissa Misener add life and dramatic interest to the production. Whoever picked out the loud plaid costume (from Wardrobe Witchery) for Dulcamara was having some fun. Also having fun is bass Ryan Allen, who has performed at the Metropolitan Opera and in all 50 states. Despite an occasional slight bobble with pitch or pace, Allen still sings an awe-inspiring melody, albeit more in segments now than continuously.

But the real draw is the promising Bridgette Gan as Adina, who made a strong impression in her St. Petersburg Opera debut. From her opening aria, Of the Cruel Isolda, Gan captures the ear and eye with power and precision. She also made use of other bel canto staples, such as the gradual crescendo and decrescendo, a portamento or glide between notes, and the artful gesture as part of a song's delivery. It was hard to watch her performance and imagine anyone else playing Adina.

On a recent afternoon, some 400 middle-schoolers hopped off buses at the Palladium to see The Elixir of Love. The St. Petersburg Opera Company included schools with a record of academic struggles. A board member of the St. Petersburg Opera Guild, which helped underwrite the project, reported that the kids loved the opera, especially when Nemorino and Adina kiss at the end.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

TAMPA — The Tempest begins with shadow play, a ship tossed on high seas. Projected onto a backdrop, the shadow of that ship looks proportionate to the waves that rock it. You see this, even as a daemonic spirit holds a toy replica in her hand, the ac...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Taste test: New cereals

Taste test: New cereals

The cereal aisle is one of our favorites at the grocery store. Every week, it seems new options are rolled out, each with even more sugar, chocolate or some twist on an old favorite. January seems a particularly popular month for new cereal promotion...
Published: 01/22/18

From the food editor: Mastering the frittata, with help from a lot of mozzarella cheese

Let’s talk about frittatas. Specifically, how I can never seem to make one that actually tastes good. They are described in blogs and cookbooks as an easy, breezy dish suitable for using up leftovers lingering in your fridge. Like a quiche, but low-c...
Published: 01/22/18
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Published: 01/20/18
‘Mike Hammer - Encore for Murder’ serves up hard-boiled 1950s fare with a healthy side of wit

‘Mike Hammer - Encore for Murder’ serves up hard-boiled 1950s fare with a healthy side of wit

CLEARWATER — From the moment the title character takes center stage, Mike Hammer — Encore for Murder is sold. Rarely does one actor own an entire production the way Gary Sandy owns this world premiere, and it’s a pleasure at watch, in large measure t...
Published: 01/19/18
Banksy’s Haight Street Rat coming to Winter Haven gallery

Banksy’s Haight Street Rat coming to Winter Haven gallery

Fans of notorious street artist and activist Banksy won’t have to travel too far to see one of his original pieces, thanks to an exhibit opening on Jan. 27 at the Outer Space Gallery in Winter Haven. The "Haight Street Rat" will be on display, on the...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

ST. PETERSBURG An air compressor did most of the talking as the small crew stapled down flooring to the stage. A master carpenter kept unskilled but eager workers on track, telling them where to line up edges. An astringent smell of glue permeated t...
Published: 01/18/18
Overtourism and safety cited in Fodor’s where-not-to-go list

Overtourism and safety cited in Fodor’s where-not-to-go list

As you contemplate all those "where to go in 2018" lists, here’s a twist: a list of places to avoid in the new year. The where not to go list is from Fodor’s, the travel guidebook publisher. Fodor’s "no list" includes places plagued by overtourism an...
Published: 01/18/18
Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

I don’t consider myself "old" — though I have gotten into a bad habit of informing door people insistent on checking my ID that I’m halfway to 70. But I’m frequently made aware of how far removed my lifestyle is from that of my 20s.So when I walked i...
Published: 01/18/18
Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

The past six months have been kind to Dunedin’s 7venth Sun Brewery. In August, the brewery’s long-awaited Tampa expansion finally happened, with its much larger Seminole Heights facility and tasting room opening in a town eager to try its range of ul...
Published: 01/18/18