Teatro Mayor presents Donizetti’s “Colombian opera”

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Courtesy: Teatro Mayor JMSD.

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Gaetano Donizetti’s “L’Elisir D’Amore” (“The Elixir of Love”), and among the most performed in the world makes its Colombian debut as a co-production between Ópera de Colombia and Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo.

Originally set in a godforsaken fishing village in what is today Basque Country, when Donizetti’s melodrama premiered in 1832 at Milan’s Teatro della Canobianna, it was taken as a contemporary love story involving a persistent young peasant, Nemorio, and the object of his affection, an amorous landowner: Adina. Felice Romani’s sharp-witted libretto is best remembered for the second-act aria “Una furtiva lagrima.”

Over almost two centuries, “L’Elisir D’Amore” has been set to almost every time period and location, in keeping with this opera’s universal appeal with audiences, and for the Colombian premiere, the Ópera de Colombia and Teatro Mayor, are embarking on a hauntingly beautiful production with stage design by the acclaimed Colombian film director Sergio Cabrera.

For Cabrera’s debut in opera, Donizetti’s 19th Century Basque Country becomes La Guajira, and a fishing community inhabited by members of the country’s Wayúu indigenous peoples. As a director who has filmed many of his works on the Colombian coast, including the hit television series Escalona (Caracol TV, 1992), Cabrera values the importance of respecting the authenticity of the original score as he creates a windswept “rancheria”, one, rooted in the territory’s matriarchal tradition. Donizetti among the Wayúu is being heralded by Ópera de Colombia’s director, Rene Coronado, as “the most Colombian of all operas.”

With three performances at Teatro Mayor – on October 26, 28, and 30 – Donizetti’s iconic work will be interpreted by the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra (OFB), under the baton of Venezuelan conductor Manuel López-Gómez. Taking the leading roles are soprano Sara Bañeras (Spain) as Adina, and tenor Julian Henao as Nemorino. Bass Hyalmar Mitrotti interprets Dulcamara and Italian baritone Gianni Giugga as Belcore, the corruptible conniving Sergeant. Colombian soprano Alejandra Ballestas is Giannetta, Adina’s confidant. The Choir of the Opera de Colombia accompanies this landmark production.

Donizetti’s “L’Elisir D’Amore” is part of the Ópera Al Parque festival’s 25th anniversary, and can be followed on social media with #ÓperaEnMovimiento. Adding authenticity to Cabrera’s cinematic vision are designers and artisans from Nazareth, a northeastern community in La Guajira peninsula, who contributed to the art direction, from lighting, costumes, and makeup.

Cabrera was recently named Colombian Ambassador to China, country where he spent much of his early childhood. Born in Medellín, in 1950, Cabrera at age 10 moved with his parents Fausto Cabrera and Luz Helena Cárdenas to Beijing, and moment in which Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution “considered Mozart and all opera the devil” he told The City Paper.

After studying at the London Film School, Cabrera made his feature debut in 1986 with Técnicas de duelo (A Matter of Honor), which received the award for Best First Film at the Cartagena International Film Festival; Silver Makhila Award for Best First Film at the Biarritz International Festival of Iberian and Latin American Film (France); among others. His second feature film, La Estrategia del Caracol (The Strategy of the Snail), premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1993, becoming his first film to be commercially screened outside of the country. The Strategy of the Snail is considered a pioneering work in Colombian film, and for this director, documentalist-turned-diplomat, staging Donizetti in the desert marks a watershed moment in a legendary career.

Teatro Mayor. Ave Calle 170 No.67-51

Performances: October 26 and 29 (8:00 pm); Sunday, October 30 (5:00pm).

Tickets available at theatre box office or online at www.teatromayor.org