L'Elisir d'amore Study Guide

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QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE January 21, at 2:00pm  |  January 25 & 27 at 7:30pm OPERA IN TWO ACTS Conductor Jonathon Darlington I Director Brenna Corner In Italian with English and Mandarin SurTitles™ DRESS REHEARSAL Thursday, January 18th, at 7pm OPERA EXPERIENCE Saturday, January 27th Backstage Tour 5:00 pm Performance Begins 7:30pm



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CAST IN ORDER OF VOCAL APPEARANCE Giannetta: Elaina Moreau Adina: Ying Fang Nemorino: Andrew Haji Sergeant Belcore: Brett Polegato Doctor Dulcamara: Stephen Hegedus With the Vancouver Opera Chorus, as peasants and soldiers and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra.

Set Designer: Allen Moyer Costumer Designer: Martin Pakledinaz Revival Costumer Designer: Amanda Seymour Lighting Designer: Harry Frehner Chorus Master: Les Dala The performance will last approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission. First produced at Teatro della Canobbiana, Milan on May 12th, 1926. First produced by Vancouver Opera on November 20th, 1969. Scenery, properties and costumes for this production were constructed at the Canadian Opera Company.




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STUDY GUIDE OBJECTIVES This study guide has been designed to be accessible to all teachers regardless of previous experience in music or opera. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the lessons to meet the dynamic needs of their students in music rooms, theatres and classrooms. The lessons are designed to engage students in learning about the opera they will be attending as well as and thinking critically about art and its meaning. How deeply students go into this material will depend on each teacher. However, we do suggest the following as the minimum commitment to preparing for the performance. • Students are familiar with the synopsis and at least one piece of music. • Students are able to identify the socio-historical context of the opera (when and where it was written). • Students are given the opportunity to reflect on and discuss their response to the performance. The lessons are designed to be either Quick or In-Depth and for use Before the Performance and/or After the Performance to provide teachers with the flexibility to tailor lessons to their classrooms. Each lesson also contains an Overview, specific Objectives and a list of the Materials needed for the activity. CONNECTIONS TO THE CURRICULUM The study guide has been prepared in accordance with the new BC Curriculum and targets secondary classes. Each activity addresses a “Big Idea” from the new curriculum and includes specific learning objectives. Elementary teachers will be able to modify the activities to meet the needs of their students with little difficulty. Opera is an art-form that benefits from “spoilers”; the more prepared students are in advance of attending the performance, the deeper and richer the performance will be!




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Opera is an interdisciplinary experience in which singers and musicians put on a dramatic production. This means that, just as in musicals, music (sung and instrumental), theatre, and visual art (the set design and creation, as well as costumes and lights) come together to tell a story. Because opera was first popular in Italy, many of the words associated with it are from the Italian language. The word “opera” means “work” in Italian, as in “work of art”. Opera is usually written in the language of the composer and the language of the country it will be heard in. Opera has been around for a while (for a little over four hundred years, in fact!), and therefore opera-singers sing without microphones, which hadn’t yet been developed by the time opera started. Opera singers have developed a special singing technique in order to be heard over the orchestra without microphones. They sing so loudly that in order to protect each other’s hearing, they make sure not to face directly towards each other while singing. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO SING OPERA?

If you were a top opera singer, you could make as much as $20,000 per performance! And what’s so hard about being an opera singer, you ask? Opera singers often have as many years of training as physicians. They must learn to have a voice powerful enough to project across a full orchestra, yet flexible enough to taper to a soft piano level when it is called for. Singers must also learn English, French, German, and Italian – even Russian and Czech! They must be able to memorize and sing many different operas (which can be up to 4 hours long!), and to dance and act while singing under hot lights. Critics and journalists are not always kind, and singers must also learn to brush off negative reviews in time to perform the same show the following night. HOW DOES AN OPERA GO FROM WORDS AND NOTES ON THE PAGE TO FULLY STAGED PERFORMANCE?

The first thing to happen is the assembly of a creative team which includes the music director, stage director, singers, orchestra musicians, and set and costume designers. Everyone works with the score and libretto to prepare for the first rehearsals. Opera singers are expected to arrive at the first rehearsal “off book”, meaning that they must have the entire score memorized in advance! Once the designers have completed their designs, artists and sewers work to create all of the props, sets and costumes. Lighting designers work with the stage director to add light and shade to the stage. At first the opera is rehearsed in sections – one scene at a time. During “tech week”, everyone moves into the theatre and all aspects of the opera from the acting to the music to the moving of the sets is practiced over and over again. Finally, opening night arrives. Et voila! There is an opera!




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SYNOPSIS ACT I Rich, beautiful, and learned Adina is watched by the love-sick Nemorino, who believes that such a woman could never love him. Adina reads aloud the story of Tristan, who, burning with unrequited love, uses an “elixir of love” to win Isolde’s heart. Sergeant Belcore arrives and immediately sets out to woo Adina to the dismay of Nemorino. When Belcore goes off to settle in the town, Adina and Nemorino are left alone. He professes his love for her but she spurns him. In the town square there is great excitement about the arrival of Doctor Dulcamara, who is selling an elixir which he promises will cure anything.

Nemorino, remembering the story of Tristan and the potion, offers all his money for the elixir of love. The doctor sells the potion to Nemorino warning that it will take 24 hours to take effect. Nemorino gloats over the success he will have in the morning and pays no attention to Adina, who, angered by this, agrees to marry Sergeant Belcore in six days’ time. A messenger then brings urgent news for Belcore to leave immediately so Belcore urges Adina to marry him that day. Adina, noting Nemorino’s distress, agrees despite his desperate pleadings. ACT II The second act opens in the midst of a banquet at which Doctor Dulcamara is one of the honoured guests. When everyone leaves for the signing of the marriage contract, Nemorino approaches Dulcamara and desperately pleads for help. The Doctor advises another dose of elixir, and he tells Nemorino to return when he has found more money. Belcore suggests that he get it by enlisting in the army. News passes round the town that Nemorino’s uncle has died and left him all his property, making Nemorino a very rich man. When Nemorino enters, he still does not know about his good fortune; and the girls immediately fawn over him, convincing him of the efficacy of the potion. vancouveropera.ca



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When Adina sees him happily surrounded with girls, she is startled and upset: Dulcamara explains the story of the elixir he sold Nemorino. When she returns, she explains to Nemorino that she has bought back his enlistment contract from Belcore so that he will not have to leave town. Nemorino hands back the contact, determined to die a soldier if Adina does not love him. Adina eventually declares her love. They embrace as Belcore enters, followed by Dulcamara and the rest of the townsfolk. Belcore graciously accepts his defeat. The happy lovers bid farewell to Doctor Dulcamara. Synopsis from the Canadian Opera Company  |  Photos by Michael Cooper

ABOUT L’ELISIR D’AMORE (ELIXIR OF LOVE) THE COMPOSER • Gaetano Donizetti was one of the most important composer’s of the bel canto opera. Bel meaning “beautiful” and canto “singing”, this style of operatic composition is full of lyrical melodies and very popular with audiences. •

Donizetti wrote almost 70 operas over the course of his career, living only to the age of 50.

Donizetti wrote both comedic and tragic operas, with his comedic operas being favoured by his audience. L’elisir d’amore was the most frequently performed during his lifetime.

THE STORY • Bellini, another romantic opera composer, had his poet Felice Romani write the libretto for L’elisir d’amore, adapted from a text with a strong balance of clever comedy and heartfelt moments. • A story within a story, Tristan and Isolde is the influential legend that began the use of the magical elixir in stories throughout history. • Unique melodies that Donizetti assigns to each singer showcase the character development with more depth and clarity than the libretto.




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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES LESSON ONE: IT’S A TOP TEN HIT! Big Idea: Dance, drama, music and visual arts each use their own unique sensory language for creating and communicating. Category: Before Performance, Quick or In Depth Overview: “Una furtiva lagrima” is one of the most popular arias of the bel canto style. Romantic and passionate, bel canto allows for emphasis on the singers voice rather than the orchestration. Luciano Pavarotti’s renowned vocal ability assisted in making the aria as famous as it is today. Objective: Active listening activities build student capacity to describe music in the same way that they are able to describe text or visuals. Repeating the lesson with different styles of music will build their vocabulary. This activity is ideal for students with a variety of musical experiences as it encourages analytical skills. MATERIALS: A high quality video of “Una furtive lagrima”. Suggestions include Luciano Pavarotti or Enrico Caruso. • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FKGRk5ZXqw – Rolando Villazon • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J7JM0tGgRY – Luciano Pavarotti • English translation of the words ACTIVITY: • Provide students with an English translation of the aria. Review the language and consider how is it structured. Is it written in clear stanzas? Does it rhyme? Is the language simple? Romantic? Threatening? Use highlighters to identify language that resonates. • Go deeper into the text by exploring the meaning of the lyrics. What are the emotions being expressed through the language? What does the audience learn about the character? • Listen to the aria without the video. Brainstorm words to describe the music including both music vocabulary and language that describes art and emotions in general. • Finally, watch a performance of the aria. How does the movement on stage reflect the lyrics as well as the music? • Review the synopsis of the opera. Have students consider where in the opera this aria might take place. After the performance, return to this discussion and have reflect on their initial thoughts. EXTENSION: Students can create a compare and contrast T chart using the information they gathered in the Listening Activity. Have them seek out different versions of “Una Furtiva Lagrima” for comparison. How do different interpretations change their response to the music? vancouveropera.ca



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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES CONTINUED LESSON TWO: THE ROLE OF ELIXIRS IN STORY-TELLING Big Idea: Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and make connections to others and to the world. Category: Before and After, In Depth Overview: The tale of Tristan and Isolde was made popular during the 12th century. Inspired by Celtic legend, this story has been influential on Western art, the idea of romantic love and the use of elixirs in many stories throughout history. After Nemorino overhears the story of Tristan and Isolde, he is convinced that finding a love potion will help him win over Adina.

“Elixir of love! You’re mine now, rarest of treasures

How great must be your power, how strong your force!

Before I even taste you, my heart is floating and my pulse beats faster.”

The Elixir of Love, Act I Scene vii, DONIZETTI

Objective: Students will explore the role of elixirs as a story telling device in multiple formats including theatre, film and music. MATERIALS: • Article by Jennifer Williams • Magazines • Newspapers • Other forms of advertising. ACTIVITY: 1. Read the article by Jennifer Williams included below. 2. Expand on her list of stories that have included some sort of elixir within the plot. 3. Make note of the characters that are drinking the elixir and the ones who are providing/selling the elixir. What do you notice about these two characters? What are their motivations? 4. Discuss the meaning of a “placebo effect” and create a list of products that seem to promise more than they can deliver. 5. Using magazines, newspapers, and phrases from online marketing to create a “too good to be true” collage.




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LOVE IN A BOTTLE: LOVE POTIONS AND LITERATURE JENNIFER WILLIAMS Ever wanted a magical fix for unrequited love? A cure-all remedy for rejection? Throughout history, the promise of love-in-a-bottle has worked its magic on generations: from Pliny the Elder (who prescribed various gruesome concoctions including hyena eyes as aphrodisiacs) to modern day Africa, where love potions are still sold on the open market. The Byzantines used to bake cakes made with donkey milk and honey to give to newly married couples. In Europe, a concoction called “Spanish Fly” is still popular– a toxic substance made from ground-up beetles. There’s little proof any of these so-called love potions or aphrodisiacs actually work, but that hasn’t stopped them making their way into literature, art and music. EXAMPLES: The most famous is of course Donizetti’s charming rural comedy, The Elixir of Love, where the travelling larrikin Dulcamara peddles a love potion to the hapless, lovesick Nemorino. Nemorino seeks the elixir of Queen Isolde (more on her in a second) to win the heart of his beloved Adina. The quack Dulcamara sells him a bottle of cheap wine, but Nemorino believes in its power. In Wagner’s celebrated opera of the Celtic legend Tristan & Isolde, the ill-fated lovers drink a potion. Tristan believes it to be poison, but it does not bring death – instead – the pair fall insatiably further into love. It brings with it their sublime love duet: In Shakespeare’s fairy comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Oberon makes a love potion to get back at his wife. “Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell:

It fell upon a little western flower,

Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,

And maidens call it love-in-idleness.

Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew’d thee once:

The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid

Will make or man or woman madly dote

Upon the next live creature that it sees.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II Scene i, SHAKESPEARE




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LOVE IN A BOTTLE (CONT.) (He hopes the next live creature will be something hideous, indeed, it’s the bumbling, donkeyheaded Bottom, who has fallen victim to Puck’s mischief). Slightly more recently, The Clovers had a hit on their hands with their Love Potion No. 9 “I told her that I was a flop with chicks

I’ve been this way since 1956

She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign

She said ‘What you need is Love Potion Number Nine’ “

Love Potion No. 9, THE CLOVERS

In Shrek 2, the ogre steals a “Happily Ever After” potion from the Fairy Godmother’s lair, believing it will bring him and his true love “beauty divine”. (Things are never that simple, Shrek!) And finally, always getting himself into trouble, Ron Weasley is the victim of a misdirected love potion in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

LESSON THREE: REINTERPRETATION OF THE SETTING OF AN OPERA Big Idea: Individual and collective expression is founded on the history, culture, community, and value system in which that expression exists. Category: After, Quick Overview: Vancouver Opera has decided to set this year’s production of L’elisir d’amore in small town British Columbia. The opera is set in early 1900’s instead of its original setting in rural Italy. One aspect of the story that impacts the setting of the opera is the fact that Adina is one of the few people in the small town that can read. This key detail must be maintained for the story to work. In the early 1900’s, being able to read wasn’t as important as it is now. This raises the question of how to maintain the integrity of a story when aspects of the setting are changed. Objective: Students will set a known story into a contemporary setting. MATERIALS: • Article by Brenna Corner




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ACTIVITY: 1. Begin by reading the comments made by stage director Brenna Corner about the change of the setting and how the main theme is retained. 2. Working together, students brainstorm a list of “classic stories”. Encourage students to include stories beyond the genre of Western European fairy tales. 3. In small groups of two or three, have students select one of the stories and set it in modern day using the handout. 4. Each group can then present their resetting to the rest of the class. Encourage students to explain why they made the choices they did. NOTES FROM DIRECTOR BRENNA CORNER There is something remarkable about a classic story re-told in an updated period. The specifics may be different but the inherent themes of human condition and our understanding of the characters stays constant. This is what I feel like every time I think about this production of The Elixir of Love. Originally created several years ago by James Robinson, this production transports this classic piece from the hills of Italy to the fields of North America. When it was first produced, this production was set in ‘Anytown USA’ circa early 1910s, and travelled to many different cities in the United States. In each of the different cities, different elements were added to give the show a regional flavour; being set in a small village in the middle of a rural landscape, the structure of this piece lend itself to many places. It has now travelled to ‘Anytown Canada’, although the Canadian resemblance is probably strongest in the hills of the Okanagan. Full of myriad characters from the under-achieving small town kid, to the beautiful and educated young woman, the blustery recruiting officer and the quack of a doctor pedalling his goods, this story encompasses all those well known archetypes of a small town. A mixture of the Music Man, and Thorton Wilder’s Our town with a dash of Canadiana and of course an ice cream truck thrown in, this production harkens back to the small towns of our past, and the simplicity of a different time. However as this story is quick to remind us, even in a different era finding love has always been difficult and yet playful journey.




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CHANGING THE SETTING OF A STORY 1. What is the name of the classic or traditional story you are reinterpreting?

2. Write a brief overview of the story.

3. What is the central idea of this story? Does it have a lesson or a moral? What does the story tell the reader about the human experience?




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4. Using the chart, decide how your story will be different in the new version. 1. What is the name of the classic or traditional story you are reinterpreting? Classic

New Version

What are the characters wearing?

How does the language used by the characters change? What about slang words?

What does the setting look like? Sound like?

What role does technology play?

5. What elements were kept the same?




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FURTHER RESOURCES 1. Writing reviews of concerts and performances encourages students to think critically about what they experienced in the theatre. Any student reviews would be greatly appreciated at the Vancouver Opera office! There are many resources to assist students with the process of writing a review. The following questions work well for critiquing live performances.

What was the overall plotline of the story?

How did you respond to the performances of the singers?

What did you think of the music? How did the music help to tell the story?

What did you think of the costumes and the sets? What was your response to the visual aspects of the opera?

Would you recommend this performance to others? Why or why not?

2. Metropolitan Opera produces detailed study guides to accompany the HD broadcasts.

http://www.metopera.org/season/on-demand/opera/?upc=811357015681 https://www.metopera.org/metoperafiles/education/Educator%20Guides/Ed%20Guide%20pdfs/Elisir.guide.pdf

UPCOMING DATES AT VANCOUVER OPERA EDUCATION Vancouver Opera in Schools Tour Presents Dean Burry’s The Scorpion’s Sting

FEB. 13TH – MARCH 9TH 2018

Eugene Onegin


Dress Rehearsal 7:00pm Thursday, APRIL 26TH, 2018

Opera Experience 7:30pm Thursday, MAY 3RD, 2018

For more Information about Vancouver Opera’s Education Programs for elementary and secondary students, please visit vancouveropera.ca/learn









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