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Opera 'one big hookup'

Brown Opera Productions will present 19th-century Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" ("The Elixir of Love") this weekend, March 6-8, in Alumnae Hall.

Despite the pressure and hard work involved in putting on BOP's most ambitious project yet, members of the cast and crew said they approached the experience with gusto, flair and excitement.

The opera's plot involves a number of characters figuring out what most college students learn their first week on campus. Nemorino, a poor peasant (Benjamin Skerritt '09), is in love with Adina (Alexandra Bachorik '10). Desperate to get Adina's attention, Nemorino buys a "love elixir" from the mountebank Dulcamara (Matthew Garza '11). But the sole ingredient in this elixir is wine.

"I think he's madly in love with Adina, but is so timid and nervous that he can't get anywhere," said Skerritt, explaining his conception of Nemorino, "When he's drunk, or under the power of the love elixir, he gets courage he didn't have before."

"It's one big weekend hookup," Skerritt added.

Garza has a similarly playful and punchy characterization of his Dulcamara.

"He's a fun guy," Garza said. "My life is a show basically. My costume is ridiculous. It's a 19th-century pimp costume, complete with a cane and a fedora."

The cast's ideas seemed to harmonize with the directors' overarching concept for the piece.

"It's refreshing in terms of opera," Musical Director Diego Ramos Rosas '12 explained. "In lots of Italian operas, the female lead dies at the end. This one is very light."

Director Michael Lubin '10 agreed, characterizing the opera as "an 1830s romantic comedy about misunderstandings" that "plays like a fairy tale."

The jovial thematic tone contrasts with the level of technical difficulty the opera presents to directors, singers and instrumentalists. Many on the production team said they found the structure and acoustic qualities of Alumnae Hall to be major obstacles. The stage's proscenium has a tendency to block sound from reaching the hall, so the performers said they feel they have to compensate by singing even louder.

This acoustic difficulty, combined with the opera's two-hour running time and the more than 30 hours of rehearsal since last Friday, seems to have taken a toll on the singers. Like much of the campus, they were battling colds - singer's kryptonite.

But they remain optimistic.

"We're the bionic cast," Bachorik said. "We're half-chemical, half-human, half-Z-Pak."

"You can't really treat viral infections, so we're all on steroids and antibiotics," she joked.

Despite technical obstacles and illnesses, all involved seem excited for the show to go on. Skerritt was convivial and self-deprecating, advising people to attend the performance because "It's free! And it's pretty funny, even though it's two hours of us standing there singing."

"We've got at least two smacks in the butt," Bachorik laughed, to which Skerritt responded, "And smacks in the face!"


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