Donizetti | Elisir d’Amore and the magic of Italian borghi

Donizetti’s full mastery of the comic style.

L’Elisir d’amore is the first opera in which Donizetti was able to show his full mastery of the comic style. Romani’s beautiful libretto made the composer’s job easier. It was the best libretto Romani ever wrote for a comic opera: clear, elegant, with well-designed characters and a good hint of sentimentalism.

Arias like “Adina believe me” and the most famous Una furtiva lagrima “A furtive tear” Donizetti don’t suggests emotions but give body to their very essence, through a music of universal, immortal power.


Set at the end of eighteenth century, the story has its central character in Nemorino, a clumsy farmer who is in love with the rich and sophisticated Adina, but doesn’t dare to declare himself. Adina is laughing at a story she’s reading a book: it’s the legend of Tristan, Isolde and of the magic love potion. A drum roll announces the arrival of a regiment of soldiers, headed by the Sergeant Belcore, who professes his love as soon as he meets Adina. Nemorino finally finds the courage to declare his love but he’s rejected.

An itinerant medicine-man, Dulcamara, also arrives at the village and starts selling to the gullible villagers his medicine, which, so he says, can cure any illness.

Desperate after Adina’s refusal, Nemorino asks Dulcamara a supply of queen Isolde’s magic potion. The “doctor” gives him a magic elixir – nothing else but a bottle of cheap red wine – which, he assures, will be able to conquer Adina’s heart. Yet will take a day to work (by then Dulcamare will be gone).

Nemorino begins immediately to sample the elixir and when Adina appears, a bit tipsy he despises her. Puzzled by Nemorino’s attitude Adina accepts Belcore marriage proposal. The wedding is organized for that very evening as the regiment has been ordered to leave in the morning.

Pressed by the events, Nemorino asks Dulcamara a second bottle of elixir and to be able to buy it he enlists in Belcore’s army.

Meanwhile the girls of the village discover that Nemorino’s wealthy uncle has just died leaving him a fortune.

After drinking a second dose of the potion Nemorino reappears and is surrounded by all the girls of the village. Adina becomes jealous so Dulcamara tries to sell the elixir also to her – but she’s too smart for that.

When Adina discovers that Nemorino has enlisted to gain the money for a second bottle of elixir in order to win her love, she realizes she’s in love with him too. She seeks and buys back Nemorino’s enlistment…and they lived happily ever after.

L’elisir d’amore: a romantic-comic opera.

L’elisir d’amore can be defined a romantic-comic opera, because the story ends with Adina’s recognition of Nemorino’s qualities. The superiority of this opera over Donizetti’s other comic operas – even Don Pasquale under some respects – lies in its vibrant and yet sentimental melodic characterization.

Each character uses a specific musical language.

Dulcamara never stops talking; Belcore is the personification of male vanity; Adina a coquettish girl who despite her effort can’t hide her innate ingenuity and kindness.

Dulcamara’s first aria is an absolute masterpiece, one of the most funny in the history of Italian opera. Ultimate glorification of the quack’s speech, gives many examples of the different traditional ways to express the comic in a recitative: declamation on a melody, melodic phrases, free melodic declamation accompanied and supported by the choir.

Nemorino’s language it characterized by a simplicity which fully expresses his deep feelings. Donizetti paid great attention to characterization; his use of melodic details is the highest example of art, as can be seen in the effectiveness and yet naturalness of “Adina credimi”.

The action takes place in a village. The word villaggio is rarely employed in the Italian contest: paese or borgo with have pretty much the same meaning, are the terms commonly used instead.

Italian Borghi were estabilished during the middle ages, as a group of houses built around a square.

Usually the church and the Town Council were built there too. Borghi developed also outside towns or on the edge of main roads. Yet Medieval borghi were built mainly within the walls of military forts and castles; in some cases the walls were demolished and rebuilt again to contain the borgo that had increased and developed in size.

Italy, the country made of 8000 comuni and countless borghi.

In Italy there are over 8000 comuni but borghi are many more as some of them are too small to be a comune. That’s why Italy is famous as the “country of villages”.

Leaving the big cities for a drive in the country side, offers the most interesting and authentic experience of Italy.

Every little ancient borgo, set on the top of a hill or on mountain slopes, is house to incredible art and history treasures.

About Sara Filippini

Opera music along with destination management and communication are my fields of expertise. Music and singing are my passion combined with travel and exploring the connection between places and their stories. Coming from Italy I am blessed with wealth of history and adventures to be explored from Sicily to the Alp's. The real dept of any story can be best felt from the place of its origin were the surroundings add to the sense of connection and true appreciation.


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