A tear and a smile at the opera

  • 2009-02-18
  • By Monika Hanley

DRUNKEN LOVE: The new opera tells the tale of a man who finds a simple bottle of wine to be a true love potion, but is not nearly as strange as most Baltic performances.

RIGA - I'll be the first to admit that seeing any sort of theatrical production 's whether it be a play, ballet, musical or opera 's in Latvia is either like having an acid flashback or walking into some sort of nudist colony. However, I'm pleased to announce that not only does the Latvian National Opera have a new, comedic opera about love and spaghetti; it has both no nudity and no weirdness in it.

That being said, there is one scene of L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti, that involves a man singing an entire aria while suspended from the ceiling by a parachute, and yet another scene where men run around the stage in planes decorated with "I love you Adina" in curly script.  But that's as weird as it gets.
The rest of the popular opera is delightful, and best of all, no one dies, making it a great opera to take a date to or simply enjoy on your own.

The Latvian version of the opera is set in a spaghetti factory, presumably during World War II. Nemorino, a simple peasant and janitor at the factory, is in love with forewoman, Adina. Unfortunately the refined and sophisticated Adina has no time or patience for one man to tie her down. Enter the suave sergeant Belcore, who promptly proposes marriage to the lovely Adina who accepts 's much to Nemorino's dismay.
Suddenly, in pops Dr. Dulcamera selling cures and miracle potions for all of life's ailments. Nemorino shyly asks for a love potion 's which turns out to just be a bottle of wine 's to make Adina fall in love with him.
But the potion is set to take effect after one day, and the marriage is due to take place later the same evening. Knowing this, Nemorino asks for a stronger potion, but has no money. To get money he enlists in the army, which then calls on him to go to war.

Meanwhile, Nemorino's uncle has died and left him a fortune. Even without knowing this, Adina figures out she loves Nemorino and has the sergeant cancel Nemorino's enlistment, proving her love for him. In the end it's a happy love story with several slapstick and humorous situations along the way.
What the singers lack in intense operatic passion, they certainly make up for in power of lung. The crowd also responded enthusiastically in the packed house to the familiar arias.
The opera includes the famous Una Furtiva Lagrima (The Furtive Tear), sung by Nemorino when he realizes that Adina loves him as she sheds a tear while ignoring him.
This might not be the most child-friendly opera, but it certainly won't scar anyone for life with any scandalous images or lewd behavior.

The opera premiered in Riga on Feb. 12 and has performances scheduled through April.