The Elixir of Love, Opera by G. Donizetti

Gaetano Donizetti’s fast-paced comic opera, The Elixir of Love, is one of the most delightful works in the genre. Full of bucolic charm and endearing characters, The Elixir of Love also boasts one of opera’s most popular arias: Una furtiva lagrima.

Nemorino is tricked by Dulcamara, an unscrupulous travelling doctor, into buying a love potion that turns out to be nothing more than a bottle of wine. He hopes, with his purchase, to win the heart of Adina. The potion has little effect other than fleetingly giving him a little more confidence.

Now penniless yet undeterred, Nemorino enlists in the army and with the bounty he receives buys another bottle. This time, he is surrounded by girls which piques Adina’s curiosity; however, both are unaware that the real reason for the other women’s interest is the news that Nemorino has just inherited his uncle’s estate.

Donizetti clearly enjoyed the humour of his opera; nonetheless The Elixir of Love seems also to pose a serious question: Is love the outcome of genuine affection or do vices such as drink and the pursuit of wealth cause us to fall under its spell?

The Vienna Opera House is the venue for a work that was first performed on 12 May 1832 at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, then known as the Teatro della Canobbiana. The Elixir of Love begins with Adina recounting the Celtic tale of Tristan and Isolde which anticipates the story that is to unfold; it is intriguing to wonder if Richard Wagner, who arranged The Elixir of Love for piano, wrote his own Tristan und Isolde because of Donizetti.

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