L'elisir d'amore - Synopsis

L'elisir d'amore: Pavol Breslik, Nino Machaidze L'elisir d'amore: Erwin Schrott, Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper Gaetano Donizetti: L'elisir d'amore. Giuseppe Filianoti, Nino Machaidze

L'elisir d'amore

Gaetano Donizetti
Felice Romani after Augustin Eugène Scribe


Act One

Nemorino is in love with Adina but has nobody in whom he can confide, least of all the woman he adores. He is full of admiration for her: she seems to him to be so clever and, above all, so very beautiful. He laments about himself, however, for being stupid and without means. For her part, Adina is interested in what she has just been reading, the story of Tristan and Isolde. She has also taken a fancy to Belcore, one of a detachment of soldiers stationed in the area. Belcore loses no time in proposing marriage to Adina the first time they meet – he urges her rapid acceptance – the wedding tomorrow and back to the battlefield the day after.
Nemorino is now forced to act: he begs for a word with Adina and tells her how desperately he loves her. But Adina rejects him, saying that his feelings are in vain and he should rather look after his sick old uncle.

A glimmer of hope now appears on the horizon for Nemorino, however,  in the person of Dulcamara, who claims to be able to cure all the ailments in the world with his potions. Nemorino asks Dulcamara about the magic potion, an elixir of love, which he has heard Adina reading about in the story of Tristan and Isolde. Dulcamara, who never misses a chance to do business, sells the delighted Nemorino a love potion and promises him that the object of his passion will be his within twenty-four hours. Nemorino has hardly swallowed the elixir – which is a pure Bordeaux – before his self-esteem begins to grow. Nemorino  no longer seems worried  at the thought of Adina’s imminent wedding. This change in Nemorino, his seeming indifference, merely makes Adina defiant. She decides to marry Belcore that same day. Nemorino is horrified as he sees time working against him.


Act Two

As part of the wedding celebrations Dulcamara wants to entertain the guests by singing a barcarolle with Adina; the story tells of how a young gondoliera, Nina, rejects a senator’s wealth in order to marry instead the poor young man, Zanetto, whom she loves.

Nemorino – now under pressure – asks Dulcamara for another dose of the elixir, but Dulcamara will not sell him one for less than 20 scudi and Nemorino no longer has enough money. Belcore, who sees in this a good opportunity to get rid of his rival, offers Nemorino 20 scudi if he will enlist in his regiment. Nemorino signs up with no hesitation.

When the rumour spreads that Nemorino’s uncle has died, leaving him a fortune, he suddenly becomes a good catch as a husband. Nemorino, who still has not heard the news, puts the amazing behaviour of the village girls down to the fact that the potion he has just bought and drunk is working. Adina, who also has no idea that Nemorino has become so wealthy, is astonished to see how popular he is with the girls – and learns from Dulcamara the supposed reason for Nemorino’s behaviour: the elixir. He also offers her a love potion but she declines with thanks – saying she prefers to rely on her own powers of judgement. Out of pity for Nemorino she buys him out of his contract with the military. Nemorino, however, would rather die on the battlefield than live without Adina. Adina finally admits her feelings for Nemorino and breaks her engagement to Belcore, who has no alternative than to follow orders and go off to war. Nemorino is overjoyed and puts his unexpected success with Adina down to Dulcamara’s potion – and the latter is also completely amazed by the miracles which his elixir has brought about.