Adina rejects the love-stricken peasant Nemorino. Later she realises that she has loved him all along.
Adina is a popular landowner who is courted by the peasant Nemorino and the sergeant Belcore. She likes Nemorino, but thinks he’s rather foolish.
In an attempt to win her heart, Nemorino buys a love potion from the quack doctor Dulcamara, not knowing it’s a plain bottle of wine. He gets drunk and ignores Adina, thinking she will fall in love with him either way. Instead, she becomes jealous and decides to accept Belcore’s marriage proposal.
At the party just before the wedding, Nemorino is growing increasingly anxious since the potion doesn’t seem to be working. Belcore gets him to sign a contract to leave for the army in return for some money so that he can buy yet another potion. Hopefully it will be even stronger than the last.
Dulcamara tells Adina of the sacrifices Nemorino has made for her. She realises that she loves him, and regrets her rude behaviour towards him. She dumps Belcore and asks Nemorino to forgive her.
”The Elixir of Love”
Opera in 2 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 10 min + interval
Late 18th century
A small village in the Basque Country
Adina is at her farm reading a book to the workers and her friend Giannetta. Nemorino, a peasant, is listening from a distance. He’s in love with Adina and as she reads the story about Tristan and Isolde, he gets the idea to use a magic love potion to win her heart.
Sergeant Belcore arrives with his troop. He confidently courts Adina with flowers and asks her to marry him. Adina replies that she’s not in a hurry. Nemorino, who has seen Belcore wooing Adina, desperately declares his love for her. She tells him that he’s a nice guy but that he should look elsewhere.
Dulcamara, a travelling doctor, has arrived in the village square. He’s selling a cure-all potion to the townspeople. Nemorino asks for the elixir of love and Dulcamara gives him a plain bottle of wine. He drinks the bottle and when Adina arrives, he ignores her, certain that the magical elixir has worked. She becomes jealous and decides to flirt with Belcore who needs to leave for the garrison soon. He proposes that they marry straight away and Adina agrees. Nemorino, worried that the potion needs more time to be effective, begs Adina to wait one more day. But spitefully she tells the village people all about the wedding plans.
There is a pre-wedding party at Adina’s house. The notary arrives to officially marry Adina and Belcore. Adina is frustrated because Nemorino hasn’t showed up yet. The whole point of marrying Belcore is to punish Nemorino for ignoring her last time they saw each other. Dulcamara sings a duet with Adina to entertain the guests.
Nemorino arrives, thinking he might be too late to prevent the wedding from happening. In a last attempt to win Adina’s heart he asks Dulcamara for a stronger potion. Dulcamara refuses to give it to him without being paid. Nemorino throws himself on a bench in despair since he has no money. Belcore asks his rival why he’s upset and Nemorino explains that he needs money. Belcore sees his chance to trick him to join the army so that he can have Adina all to himself. Nemorino signs a contract and receives cash in return. He’s supposed to depart the next day. Belcore is happy that the plan worked and Nemorino is excited about buying the potion as soon as possible.
Giannetta tells her friends that Nemorino’s uncle has died and left him a fortune. Nemorino arrives after having drunk a second bottle of wine. All the girls suddenly swarm around him. Nemorino and Adina are the only ones still not knowing about the inheritance. Instead, Nemorino believes that the potion is working. Adina arrives with Dulcamara. She’s jealous but pretends not to care about all the girls new interest in Nemorino. Dulcamara tells Adina that Nemorino is so lin love with her that he bought a potion to make her love him. Adina is moved by what she hears, realises that she’s loved him all along and regrets her rude behaviour.
Alone, Nemorino contemplates his love for Adina. He saw a tear running down her cheek. When they meet, he pretends that he’s not interested, in the hope that she will reveal her true feelings. Adina tells him that she’s bought back the military contract and that he doesn’t need to leave for the army. Reluctantly she admits that she loves him and asks for his forgiveness. They embrace just as Belcore arrives. He’s not too upset, saying that there are plenty of other women for him.
Nemorino – Tenor (leggiero)
A simple peasant, in love with Adina
Adina – Soprano (lyric coloratura)
A wealthy landowner
Belcore – Baritone (lyric)
A sergeant, interested in Adina
Dr Dulcamara - Bass (buffo)
A quack doctor
Giannetta – Soprano (soubrette)
Place of birth: Bergamo, Italy
Place of death: Bergamo, Italy
Gaetano Donizetti was an Italian composer of the bel canto style. During the span of his life he wrote about 70 operas. His two most popular operas today are L’elisir d’amore and Lucia di Lammermoor.
Donizetti didn’t come from a musical family, but started taking music lessons at an early age. In 1822, after his ninth opera, the impresario of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples offered him a residency. For the next 22 years he wrote 51 operas that were performed at the theatre.
Donizetti married Virginia Vasselli in 1828. She gave birth to three children but none of them survived. In 1837 Virgina died, and within a year of her death, both of Donizetti’s parents also died. He never completely recovered from his grief. At the end of his life he lived at an institution for the mentally ill and just before his death he was moved back to Bergamo where he was born.
Although being mainly an opera composer, Donizetti also wrote symphonies, songs, sacred music, string quartets and other chamber music. Together with Rossini and Bellini he shaped the bel canto style during the first part of the 19th century. After Bellini’s death, Donizetti was the major Italian composer until Verdi.
“My heyday is over, and another must take my place. The world wants something new. Others have ceded their places to us and we must cede ours to still others... I am more than happy to give mine to people of talent like Verdi. ”
Donizetti often staged his own operas.
Most prominent operas
Felice Romani wrote the libretto for L’elisir d’amore after Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's Le philtre.
Felice Romani was an Italian librettist, poet and scholar of literature and mythology. His list of works is extensive producing nearly 100 librettos during his lifetime including many librettos for Donizetti and Bellini. His most famous works are Bellini’s I capuleti e i Montecchi, La sonnambula, I Puritani and Norma, Rossini’s Il turco in Italia and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and L’elisir d’amore. He was regarded as the best Italian librettist of his age.
2d1, 2, 2, 2 – 2, 2, 3, 0
timp, perc, harp, piano, strings
The comic opera L’elisir d’amore was written in six weeks. It premiered at Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan in 1832. Between the years 1838 and 1848 it was the most performed opera in Italy.
Today L’elisir d’amore is one of the top 20 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria – Quanto è bella, quanto è cara (Nemorino)
Aria – Della crudele Isotta (Adina)
Aria – Come Paride vezzoso (Belcore)
Aria – Udite, udite o rustici (Dulcamara)
Aria – Una furtiva lagrima (Nemorino)
Aria – Prendi per me sei libero (Adina)