Review: A Tenor Arrives at the Met Opera in ‘Elisir’

There are some arias that are so beloved, so virtually indestructible, that they more or less sing themselves. Think of “La donna è mobile” or “Vissi d’arte.” A good performance gets audiences applauding; a great one transports them.

“Una furtiva lagrima,” with its teary sighs and bursts of joy, is one of those arias, and when the 27-year-old Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga sang it on Sunday in the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Donizetti’s frolicsome comedy “L’Elisir d’Amore,” time seemed to stop. Cutting a lonely figure in a field against a midnight-blue sky, he sang with enchanting beauty. He took the second verse in a beguilingly soft tone and rounded out the cadenza with a convincing messa di voce — one more polished than the rendition captured on video last week.

Anduaga’s soigné style, and vibrant yet plangent timbre, made him an uncommonly sensitive Nemorino — more of a melancholy-prone Werther scribbling poeticisms in a notebook than a sunny country bumpkin mooning over his beloved. His gracefully produced sound nevertheless carried wonderfully throughout the Met’s vast auditorium, and his acting, subtly charming instead of cloyingly eager, was of a piece with his voice.

Still, Anduaga missed opportunities that seemed tailor-made for him — the descending lines of “Adina, credimi” lost their legato — but once he figures out how to bring his ravishing vocalism to the less showy parts of this role, it will no doubt become a signature one.

Nemorino has his eye on a woman who is worldlier than he — he admires her studiousness in his first aria — and Aleksandra Kurzak’s confident, intuitive way with Adina’s music, reflecting a long familiarity with coloratura roles, implicitly conveyed that quality. Some breathiness perforated her tone, and her vibrato widened at high volume, but she did tap into the magic of her early coloratura days with a silvery, delicately vulnerable “Prendi.”

The baritone Joshua Hopkins, who sang Papageno in Julie Taymor’s production of “The Magic Flute” earlier this season, turned in another fantastic performance. With a velvety tone, cocked eyebrow and dash of swagger, his Belcore was as much a macho sensualist as a cartoonish military sergeant. Even though “Come Paride” is something of a gag — nodding as it does to Dandini’s supercilious “Come un’ape” from Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” — Hopkins’s evenly textured, firmly woven sound elevated it to a thing of beauty. Elsewhere, his patter percolated, creating a smooth yet lively murmur.

Bartlett Sher’s production has Dulcamara arrive in a gilded carriage bearing his snake oils, and as opera’s favorite charlatan, Alex Esposito traded basso buffoonery for the tradition of slippery salesmen like Pirelli and Harold Hill.

The conductor Michele Gamba painted in dusky pastels, finding unanimity of color in swelling strings and pearly woodwinds. There were occasional ensemble issues, but once the opera entered its final stretch — with “Una furtiva lagrima” flowing into “Prendi” and on to the all’s-well finale — Donizetti’s sturdily constructed masterwork seemed to take care of itself.

L’Elisir d’Amore

Through April 29 at the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan;

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