Monday, August 09, 2010

Merola Opera's L'Elisir D'Amore

The Merola Opera Program, San Francisco's summer training institution for budding opera stars, staged the Donizetti comedy "L'Elisir D'Amore" this weekend at the small Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason with two rotating casts in the principal parts. The chorus for both casts consisted of Merola singers who had already performed in a concert at Herbst Theatre last month, and they were wonderful, though you could hear some of the larger solo voices booming out of the choral mix.

The opera is essentially a sweet village romance between a haughty heroine sung by Nadine Sierra and the love-sick peasant hero Nemorino sung by Daniel Montenegro, who were both superb (pictured above).

There is also Belcore, an egomaniacal young military sergeant sung by Benjamin Covey and Dulcamara, sung by Thomas Florio above, who is an old mountebank selling a secret elixir that turns out to be Bordeaux wine. The production, directed by Nicola Bowie, set the piece in World War Two San Francisco which was fine, but then decided to further complicate things by having the village be a theatre troupe, a concept which made no sense whatsoever and which was frequently just ignored.

Still, the sets and costumes were brightly pretty, and the orchestra led by longtime recital accompanist Martin Katz (above) was fun, partly because they were essentially sitting in the audience's laps between the stage and the first row. Watching and listening to cellist Emil Miland from two feet away, for instance, was a treat.

The real highlight, though, was the singing of Daniel Montenegro, who simply has a gorgeous tenor voice that he never pushed or strained. What is it with the Merola program and their string of great Mexican tenors lately? David Lomeli, Eleazar Rodriguez, and now Daniel Montenegro are certainly a formidable trio. Montenegro has the added advantage of sweet, boyish looks which are perfect for young romantic heroes in the opera world.

The second cast had a different set of strengths and weaknesses, which are well detailed by the Opera Tattler (above) and Axel Feldheim at Not For Fun Only.

No comments: