FORT WORTH -- After impressing with Mozart's Don Giovanni on Saturday, the Fort Worth Opera Festival delighted with Donizetti's The Elixir of Love on Sunday afternoon at Bass Hall.
The colorful show conceived by James Robinson and designed by Allen Moyer shifted the action from the olive groves of Italy to an all-American bandstand gazebo in the 19-teens. Nemorino drove an old-timey ice cream truck; patent-medicine peddler Dulcamara arrived on a sidecar motorcycle. Sergeant Belcore recruited using the famous Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster.
The opera is full of happy marches and cheery romances. Though the stage was overcrowded and movements of cast and chorus compacted and contained, the impression was always one of sunny delight.
Much of that is due to delicious singing by a marvelous cast headlined by local favorite Ava Pine as the vivacious Adina. She skipped and flounced about, her face radiant. Her soprano was limber and dark-hued.
She was well-matched by powerhouse young American tenor Michael Fabiano as the love-struck Nemorino. In duets with Pine, harmonized phrases sparkled and interaction was spirited. His rendition of the hit aria "Una furtiva lagrima" ("One secret tear") was bold and heartfelt, supported expressively by bassoonist Kevin Hall. But it was Pine who drew real tears from me -- as Adina confessed her true love, silliness gave way to edifying emotion.
Christopher Bolduc was suave as the arrogant Belcore; and Rod Nelman nearly stole the show as the kindly quack Dulcamara. Courtney Ross's Giannetta was often lost in the crowd of vivacious chorus ladies, expertly prepared by Stephen Dubberly.
The always-bustling direction by Jennifer Nicoll included many inspired touches -- a team of football players (colorfully costumed by Martin Pakledinaz), a hilariously malcontented assistant to Dulcamara (played by Scott Higgins), and a neat vaudeville soft shoe by Nemorino.
Donizetti's frothy music pranced under the assured conducting of Stewart Robertson, with snazzy playing by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. For anyone unsure about attending an opera this festival, The Elixir of Love is the one to see.