PORTLAND, Maine — The lights are coming on in theaters, on stages, and in performance venues across the state. The energy and anticipation of both performers – and audiences - is palpable.
And opera is returning to Maine – with Opera Maine’s production of “The Elixir of Love”. This opera might have been penned nearly 100 years ago – but the themes are universal and current.
Luis Alejandro Orozco, who plays 'Belcore' in the production, puts it this way. "It’s the classic he loves her, she I think loves him, but doesn’t know it yet so it takes another guy to realize that she does love him kinda thing – so I’m that other guy that’s a little bit of the Gaston character in Beauty and Beast. It’s also just such a light-hearted show and such an uplifting story and the music is just gorgeous so I think it will be a lot of excitement met with just so much relief from seeing live music."
The curtain will rise tonight on Opera Maine’s production of “The Elixir of Love”, by Gaetano Donizetti. Now, you might be watching this and thinking – opera really isn’t my cup of tea. Luis suggests that perhaps you haven’t really given opera a try. "They haven’t experienced the right show or the right performance, the right singer or whatever the case may be for different people. It’s always interesting to me to go back to these stories and see these characters that still… the same things that makes us laugh, make them laugh. The same things that they struggle with, we’re struggling with now as a society whatever the case may be. You know, the same heartbreak exists now. I think looking through that window to the past and seeing that as people, we have really not changed much, for better or for worse, and then encapsulating that with the most epic and gorgeous music that I’ve ever experienced in my life. The first time I heard an opera I just couldn’t comprehend the music aspect of it, it was just amazing."
Nicolas Alberto Dosman is the chorus master. His job: To make sure the chorus delivers the kind of performance the production needs. "The chorus kind of supports the story line, at times eggs things on, at times gives the necessary reaction, to help what’s going on with the story. As with any performance, I think audience members have to realize that we’re all connected somehow. And this story to some extent, is a story that they’ve either been a part of, that they’ve witnessed, that they can relate to. Because I think opera and storytelling is timeless. And although this opera was written a long time ago, I think 21st century audiences can absolutely relate to this kind of story."
While Opera Maine had to pause during the pandemic, they’re mission to nurture professional opera productions in Maine continues.
"There’s a plan always to keep it varied – so that we do a comedy, we do a tragedy, we do things that keep us interested and involved, we try to do things that people may not be so aware of. So we introduce new operas in our studio artists program and on our main stage we always try to be entertaining – whether it’s with an opera that everybody knows… Carmen… for example, or with something like 'The Elixir of Love' which we’re doing now," says Opera Maine Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn.
The production has been in the works for months – Opera Maine is a national opera company, so casting for principals happens in New York City. But local talented is also well-represented. Opera Maine brought in Tony Award-winning set and lighting designer, Christopher Akerlind, from Portland. The costume designer works with Opera Company Philadelphia and uses local seamstresses to complete the look of the characters.
Here is a story 207's Rob Caldwell did with Christopher Akerlind.
Dona Vaughn adds, "We try to integrate ourselves in to the community with the full recognition that we are a national company. The wonderful thing about 'The Elixir of Love' is that it’s bel canto singing – which in Italian means “beautiful singing”… and that is what we have here – we have a cast that sings beautifully."
"It’s like being… bursting in to sunlight after being in a cage. It’s an incredible feeling – the first time I heard the sing through when we first came to rehearsal …I just started crying because it was live – it was music – there were singers in front of us – they were pouring their hearts in to the sound coming out of their mouths and it was a wonderful re-affirmation about why we do opera. Which is to express passion, and feeling, and pain – and I always say … opera is for anyone who feels," says Dona.
Now, in case you are thinking – how will I understand how what the actors are saying? There are 'Super Titles' right above the stage… so the entire opera is translated into English as it is performed. Opening night is tonight – AND there is a second performance this Friday evening, and tickets are still available through PortTIX.