Synopsis for The Elixir of Love
PLACE AND TIME: A small Italian village, 1950s
Courtesy of Opera North
In a small village, somewhere in Italy, a poor young man named Nemorino is hopelessly in love with the capricious and unobtainable Adina. He listens longingly as she reads aloud to her workers and guests the tale of Tristan and Isolde, whose love for one another was inflamed by the drinking of a magic potion.
A stranger arrives in the village—Captain Belcore—who immediately begins to flirt with Adina. Nemorino is miserably jealous, and appalled when Belcore precipitously asks for Adina’s hand in marriage. She does not immediately accept, but neither does she categorically refuse him. Fearful of losing Adina, Nemorino declares his love for her. Kindly, but firmly, she turns him down.
A second stranger drops in—the colorful and charismatic Doctor Dulcamara. Claiming to offer a miraculous cure for every ill, he sells his wares to the villagers. Nemorino, believing that the hand of fate is helping him, asks Dulcamara if he stocks Isolde’s love potion. Seizing the chance to make some easy money, Dulcamara instantly produces the elixir of love. It will not, he warns, take effect for 24 hours; by the time Nemorino discovers it’s nothing but cheap wine, the Doctor will have left the village.
Nemorino, who has never touched alcohol before, proceeds to drink the entire bottle. He quickly grows more cheerful and confident. Seeing Adina, he adopts an air of lofty indifference. Piqued by Nemorino’s change in attitude, she informs Belcore that she will marry him at the end of the week. At that moment, the Captain’s officers arrive with orders to return to duty the following morning. Belcore therefore suggests they move the wedding to that very evening. Nemorino is horrified; by the time the love potion works its magic, Adina will be married. He pleads with her, but to no avail. To the joy of everyone in the village, Adina and Belcore make preparations for their nuptials.
The pre-wedding party is in full swing. Dulcamara invites Adina to sing a duet with him. Belcore summons a lawyer to arrange the wedding contract but Adina, annoyed by Nemorino’s apparent absence, decides to wait before putting pen to paper.
Nemorino, in despair at the prospect of losing the love of his life, begs Doctor Dulcamara for another dose of the love potion. The Doctor says he will be happy to oblige—in return for hard cash, of course. The penniless Nemorino is therefore easy prey for his rival Belcore, who offers him money to enlist.
What Nemorino does not know is that he has just inherited a fortune, thanks to the death of his uncle. But Giannetta, one of Adina’s senior employees, has heard the news and passes it on to the women in the village. All at once, Nemorino has become the most eligible bachelor in the area. Initially bewildered, he attributes his sudden popularity with the ladies to the effects of the elixir. Dulcamara, too, starts to believe in the power of his own potion.
Adina, fearing that she is about to lose Nemorino to another woman, finally acknowledges the strength of her feelings for him and resolves to win him back. Nemorino dares to hope that his dream may be about to come true. It does: Adina, having repaid Belcore the recruitment fee, confesses to Nemorino that she loves him. When they hear of the inheritance, their happiness is complete. Belcore is obliged to leave empty-handed, but Dulcamara, attributing all this success to the power of his elixir, departs in triumph.