Love tonic: POP’s ‘Elixir’

by Monika Beal, Lister reviewer

Pacific Opera Project  (POP) has already secured a reputation for producing operas in modern settings – you may remember the Star Trek milieu for Abduction from the Seraglio, or perhaps the too-cool, hipster La Boheme, which returns later this year. Now, their new production of Donizetti’s colorful Elixir of Love feels right at home in a retro 1950s diner.

Artistic director Josh Shaw has realized a cohesive show from top to bottom: neon lights flank the stage atop a black-and-white checkered floor, and even the orchestra is decked out in their very own bright red letterman sweaters. The supertitles embellished Felice Romani’s original libretto with well-known song lyrics and movie quotes from a few favorite oldies. The ensemble had a swingin’ time kicking up their feet to the dance choreography by Amy Lawrence, with a pastiche of familiar moves that jive perfectly to Donizetti’s catchy tunes – look out for Greased Lightning!

From the first moment, the singing was noticeably superb, and the players set the mood by embracing iconic caricatures in their roles. Baritone Andrew Potter is an impressive 6’10” with a voice to match, which he appropriately strutted around the stage as the bombastic Belcore. Rocky Sellers, as Dr. Dulcamara, waltzes in with his fly-by-night-salesman routine, quickly taking advantage of the sweet boy-next-door Nemorino, played by Kyle Patterson, whose heart is set on the alluring Adina (Amanda Kingston).

By Act 2, the cast revved up their roles: the flirty-fun choreography in Jenna Friedman‘s telephone scene as Giannetta, singing “Saria possibile,” took a cue from Bye, Bye, Birdie’s (1963) “Telephone hour,” helping to spread the village gossip lickety-split! Nemorino’s intoxicated “Una furtiva lagrima” held the audience in absolute suspense. His angelic voice confessed a tenderness and exquisite vulnerability that moved everyone to gratuitous applause lasting over a minute. (Or in theatre terms, an eternity.) Soon after came Adina’s “Prendi, per me sei libero,” sung with strength and grace; at once releasing Nemorino from the web of Adina’s prideful charm, while exposing her feelings of true friendship and love.

Whether in celebration (or boycott) of Valentine’s Day, love is in the air – so don’t miss this refreshing setting of The Elixir of Love. They say it’s guaranteed “to make your lolly-POP!”

L’elisir d’amore runs through February 25.  Visit POP’s website for details and tickets.

Photos by Martha Benedict

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