The Italians enter the Christmas spirit with a fragrant, yeasty slice of panettone -- Christmas isn’t Christmas without it on our festive tables. We...
This summer, be prepared to fall in love. On the occasion of L’Italo-Americano’s Ferragosto annual event, our guests from the Italian American community of Los Angeles and nearby areas will enjoy a special performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (Elixir of Love).
L’Elisir d’Amore is one of Donizetti’s most famous operas. It was the most often performed opera in Italy from 1838 to 1848, and it contains the famous tenor aria “Una furtiva lagrima”, sang by protagonists Nemorino and Adina. Nemorino, a poor peasant, is in love with the gorgeous Adina, and he drinks the elixir of love made by “doctor” Dulcamara in an attempt to gain her affections. A comic plot unfolds as the audience realizes that the elixir of love is actually cheap Bordeaux wine.
The play will be staged in English by the talented actors from Orange County Opera, who are very excited to bring their rendition of this beautiful classic to our Ferragosto celebrations.
Orange County Opera (OCO) was founded in 1976 with the purpose of introducing opera to young students in Southern California, thanks to the support of Las Campanas and the local Department of Education. Artistic Director Steve Dunham, says, “Arts programs have been struggling, so I feel good about what we are doing to keep this art form going and trying to build an audience for the future and not let this beautiful music die off.”
Steve had been singing from a young age in choirs and school programs, but he began singing opera in college. Searching for a job as an opera singer, he was hired by Chris Webb, one of the original founders of Orange County Opera, and 12 years ago he took over the company.
Many opera programs have an educational outreach, but what makes them unique is that they develop a story line, making a special effort to connect with the students, and all of their operas are performed in English. Steve describes, “We try to make it interactive, and we want to educate them about the singing and learn how a bass is different from a tenor, etc.” Usually, a narrator introduces each character, who will sing a 30 second clip of an aria and approach the audience. When the operas are finished, they introduce themselves and their voice type, so as to engrain musical vocabulary and knowledge into the kids.
In addition, OCO also serves as a stage for professional singers based in Southern California to develop and refine their craft.
Steve Dunham has expanded OCO’s reach significantly since becoming artistic director, and performing at Ferragosto comes with their connection with the Pasadena Opera Guild.
Regarding his love for Italian opera, he says, “The best opera around is from Italy.” The original music director arranged most of the operas that they perform, the majority of which are Italian. In addition to Donizetti’s Elisir D’amore, they perform Daughter of the Regiment by Donizetti, The Barber of Seville by Rossini, The Tales of Hoffman, and Hansel and Gretel.
Steve encourages the audience to “take yourself back and view the show from that young, energetic lens, and we think you’ll have a greater appreciation for what we are doing and have a good time. Just allow yourself to go with it and enjoy it in that way.”
With a dynamite cast and a great selection of opera, Orange County Opera provides entertainment for all ages. Come watch as they bring Donizetti’s Elixir of Love to life.