Jan. 11, 13: CSU presents 'The Elixir of Love' opera

It's not "Love Potion No. 9," but "L'elisir d'amore" (or "The Elixir of Love") is about a lovelorn man seeking a love potion.

Young peasant Nemorino wants a love potion to give to rich landowner Adina. He's convinced that the potion will make her fall in love with him.

The comic Donizetti opera is a familiar one with Columbus State University's Schwob School of Music presenting it almost 20 years ago.

The last full opera was "The Marriage of Figaro" in 2007.

In between, Joseph Golden, the director of opera at CSU, has presented operettas as well as "opera scenes."

"We mix and match with formal musical theater, operetta and full opera, depending on the number and maturity of our student voices in any given year," Golden said. "Opera scenes are very instructive to the students, where they get to do the type of fully intense work they would do in a full production, only on a smaller, more manageable scale for their first experience."

He chose "The Elixir of Love" for three reasons: He had the students who were ready, the CSU Philharmonic was ready for the challenge of Donizetti's music, and the show is perfect for the Bill Heard Theatre stage.

"The opera is about 'Boy loves girl. Girl rejects boy. Boy overcomes all obstacles and wins girl in the end,'" Golden said. "Along the way, we just happen to have the privilege of hearing some of the most beautiful music ever composed for the lyric stage."

In the past, the Schwob School presented a full opera every other year.

Golden plans to reinstate that tradition.

"We plan to do a large, full production every other year, with smaller productions in the alternating years. 2015 will see the next full production."

It's tough to pick an opera for undergraduate student voices, he said.

"Most of the great operas are beyond the stamina and endurance of most undergraduates, as the orchestral forces are daunting for young singers," Golden said.

The vocal department has seen a number of success stories, he said.

"From our first opera, 'Gianni Schicchi,' Yvonne Garza has made a big career in Mexico," Golden said. "Rhonda (Hooper) Munro has made a fine career in Boston, and Misae Kondo has also created a fine career in Japan. It was a good beginning."

The student actors

Senior vocal education major Michael Johnson, 24, plays Nemorino.

The Ashburn, Ga., native calls getting the role "one of the best experiences of my life, and it has certainly been exhilarating and exciting."

Kristen Meyers, 22, a senior vocal performance major from Houston, is playing Adina, the rich woman.

"It is the role I auditioned for, but

just being able to be a part of this fantastic show is really an honor," she said.

Phillip McIntyre, 23, is working on a double major -- vocal performance and music education. He's originally from Roswell, Ga., and he'll play Dr. Dulcamara, a quack who is selling a number of potions.

"Technically, we don't exactly audition for specific roles," McIntyre said. "However, Dr. Dulcamara has always been a dream role for me. 'Elixir' was the first opera I ever saw, and the moment Dulcamara entered the stage, I was enamored of his charm and his questionable salesmanship."

Samantha Dubois is playing the role of Sammatto, a young mute boy. He is the assistant to Dr. Dulcamara.

Dubois claims to have been "anti-opera" until she was cast.

"This opera has been one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences I have had," she said. "This production has shown me that I may want to consider taking my vocal performance degree and pursing a master's in opera performance."

All the students are singing the songs. Well, everyone except Dubois.

"I guess you could say that I 'sing' my role every day when I am silent," she jokes.

"I warm up in the shower every day to the chagrin of my family, my roommates and maybe my neighbors," McIntyre said. "My mother asked me to sing some of the role while I was at home for the holidays, and when I did, she covered her ears and ran to the other room. I don't think she was expecting opera to be so loud. She's coming on Sunday though, so no harm was done."