Passions And Potions: Donizetti's 'The Elixir of Love' Donizetti's unassuming comedy serves up magic elixirs and romance -- and a couple of solid insights. It demonstrates that, when it comes to love, the genuine article beats any potion-induced passion.

Passions And Potions: Donizetti's 'The Elixir of Love'

From La Fenice In Venice

Hear An Introduction To The Opera

Adina (Désirée Rancatore, upper right), object of several men's affections, celebrates her impending wedding to the soldier Belcore, but puts off signing the papers. Michele Crosera/La Fenice hide caption

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Michele Crosera/La Fenice

Adina (Désirée Rancatore, upper right), object of several men's affections, celebrates her impending wedding to the soldier Belcore, but puts off signing the papers.

Michele Crosera/La Fenice

'Una furtiva lagrima'

The Hit Single

In Act Two, Nemorino (tenor Celso Albelo) sings the bittersweet aria "Una furtiva lagrima." He sees "one secret tear" in Adina's eye, a sign that he may still have a chance with her, and says he'd sooner die than be with any other woman.

The B Side

Nemorino and Adina (soprano Désirée Rancatore) finally realize their true feelings as she sings this spectacular aria -- after buying back his military enlistment papers -- urging him to stay at home, where he is loved.

'Prendi, per me sei libero'

Love potions -- or at least hopeful notions of love potions -- have been around for a long time. And why not? The pleasures of romance can be painfully hard to come by, and the idea of a magic formula that turns endless frustration into instant passion can be pretty appealing.

Not surprisingly, love potions have turned up everywhere, from ancient fables to 1950's pop songs. Remember "Love Potion No. 9," by the Clovers? And while love potions also play a role in any number of operas, there are two that stand out above the rest -- and they couldn't be more different.

Based on a medieval legend, Wagner's emotionally driven Tristan and Isolde features an elixir that actually works, but with dire consequences. The romance that ensues leaves one lover deceased and the other demented.

Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, isn't nearly so intense. It's a lighthearted romp, featuring a phony love potion that's nothing but a bottle of cheap, red wine. Still, along with all the laughs, Donizetti's unassuming comedy does serve up a couple of solid insights. It demonstrates that, when it comes to love, the genuine article beats any potion-induced passion. And it suggests that, when searching for a magic formula to stimulate the libido, human foibles can make placebos safer and more effective than any mysterious elixir.

On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents a production of The Elixir of Love starring tenor Celso Albelo and soprano Desiree Rancatorel, from the storied theater La Fenice, in Venice, Italy.

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