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Bob Goepfert Reviews "The Elixir of Love" At Hubbard Hall

Not only is the production of the “The Elixir of Love” a wonderful professional offering of a delightful comic opera, it is probably one of the most charming entertainment experiences you can have this season.

Offered by the Hubbard Hall Opera Company, the production is presented in a partial cabaret setting. Anything offered in this historic space built in 1878 is an intimate experience.  With this presentation having the singers within a couple of feet, and often a couple of inches from you is a truly personal experience.

While environment can enhance an experience, it doesn’t define one.  Indeed, this effort stands on its own as a memorable production. The material is fun, the singing is brilliant, the staging clever and the orchestra lush.

It is almost difficult to believe that in a small community in Cambridge, NY so many talented artists would gather to produce five performances of this opera.  But here they are until Sunday.

The performances are outstanding.  Lindsay Ohse combines beauty and a glorious soprano to play Adina, a successful woman who learns to love a humble man.  Her voice is enthralling.  Powerful yet sweet, she fills the hall with beauty as she creates a hard character who is able to suggest an ability, and even a need, to find true love.

Christopher Lucier is that man.   He plays Nemorino, a meek, unassuming man who falls in love with the unattainable Adina.  His rich tenor signals the anguish of his situation and the beauty of his singing reveals the kind nature of his soul.   

Individually they are beautiful. With their duets they are gorgeous.  They find the comic fun in the material but they and the opera do not really come alive until the depth and honesty of their desires are expressed in the romantic second act.  

Nemorino’s rival, the vain soldier Belcore, is given comic heft by Patrick McNally who finds the broad vanity in the man.  Playing the comical huckster Dulcamara,  Andrew Adelsberger is a lot of fun   Both men make great vocal contributions to a wonderfully sung production, as does Rebecca Shorstein as the funny sidekick Gianetta.  Indeed, each member of the cast adds pleasing depth to the happy ensemble numbers.

Making the production so much more amazing is a marvelous 20-piece orchestra conducted by Maria Sensi-Sellner.  They are wonderful as accompaniment.  Even though they were unobtrusive by supporting but never overpowering the performers, they were so good I craved seeing them perform in their own concert.

“The Elixir of Love” is about Nemorino, a country bumpkin who falls in love with the beautiful and wealthy Adina. He is a simple man who desires her to be the love of his life.   The situation seems hopeless until the charlatan, Dulcamara arrives in town selling an elixir that promises Nemorino that within 24 hours of drinking it women will find him irresistible.

Clearly, this is a light-hearted fable that exists merely to entertain.  And entertain it does.  Director Andrew Nienaber moves the locale of Donizetti’s opera inside to a cabaret and the period is updated from the 1820s to the 1950s.   The changes do not hinder the plot nor the mood of the opera, but it does affect the visual pomp that comes would come from period costumes.  The small loss is more than compensated for by having about 50% of Hubbard Hall converted into a cabaret in which the performers mix among the audience.  Thanks to Nienaber’s imaginative staging it works wonderfully.

The opportunity to be up close and personal to so many talented artists and to hear their gorgeous voices without amplification is a rare treat and a joy to experience. 

Wherever you sit, do try to get to Hubbard Hall for “Elixir of Love” before it closes on Sunday.   For tickets and schedule information call (518) 677-2495.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management. 

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