Claire Nowak

California Here They Come

Florentine production of The Elixir of Love is staged in California wine country and even features a specially-made wine.

By - May 6th, 2015 02:21 pm
The Elixir of Love

The Elixir of Love

In what is surely a first for the Florentine Opera Company, it will have a set featuring a 1946 Dodge pick-up truck. Not that this was the goal. Rather, the company was looking to create a fun, 20th century update of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, written in the 19th century and still delighting audiences today.

The basic plot will remain the same. The peasant Nemorino (played by tenor Rolando Sanz) tries desperately to win the heart of a beautiful but emphatically disinterested landowner named Adina (soprano Diana McVey). He has one last resort: a “love potion” that’s actually a bottle of cheap wine he buys from the crafty Dr. Dulcamara (Musa Ngqunqwana, making his Florentine debut).

But the Florentine moves the story forward a century to 1930s California Wine Country. (The 1946 pickup, it turns out, is the same style as from the 1930s, so it works fine for the show.) The earth tones in scenic color schematics reflect those found in California. The costumers for McVey echo the style of Katharine Hepburn. And this atmospheric update, besides freshening the story, may also provide an ideal stage set to rent out to other companies performing the opera.

Elixir is one of the 20 most performed operas in the country, but the Florentine has not performed it since 1974. General director William Florescu, also the stage director for this show, felt it was time to bring a lighter comedy back to the company. But Florentine board member Clay Nestler had a more interactive idea in mind.

“When I was explaining to the board my concept behind the show,” Florescu explains, “(Nestler) said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun, since we’re setting it in Napa, to actually produce wine that we could do a little fundraising with?’”

Working with a company that specializes in customized wines, they sampled and combined different blends, designed a label inspired by the production and had it shipped to Milwaukee. Proceeds from the wine sales will directly benefit Florentine, and despite Florescu’s initial concerns about how it would taste, he says it’s a fine vintage.

“You always have to cross your fingers when you do something like that,” he says.

Florescu has been involved with numerous productions of the opera, either as a singer or director. In his performing days, he played Sergeant Belcore, who also pines after Adina. Now Corey McKern has the role, after performing as Marcello in La Bohème last season. While Florescu finds himself occasionally singing along, he has no regrets replacing singing with directing. He is all too willing to let McKern take the spotlight this time around.

“He sings it so well that it lets me know why I quit singing.”

7:30 p.m. May 8 and 2:30 p.m. May 10 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $27-121, available online or by calling 414-291-5700.

The Elixir of Love Rehearsals

Celebrating the Clarinet

Early Music Now closes its season with an homage to woodwinds, “Celebrating the Clarinet.” The program features internationally renowned clarinetist Eric Hoeprich, cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian performing works from Beethoven, Brahms, Mikhail Glinka and Carl Maria von Weber. The concert is a sequel to last season’s introduction to the historical clarinet.

7:30 p.m. May 9 at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Tickets range from $28-44, available online or by calling 414-225-3113. Student discounts are available.

Cantare Chorale

Community choir Cantare Chorale performs its annual spring concert this weekend with a combination of sacred and secular music. The group is made up of 40-50 musicians from the Greater Milwaukee Area. Director Lani Knutson will lead the performance.

7:30 p.m. May 9 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10, available online.

0 thoughts on “Classical: California Here They Come”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Elixir Of Love’s wine creation and tie-in is very smart, adding to the “reality” of the opera!

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