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Miracle in a bottle

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Unlucky in love? Sleeping alone? Penniless and pining for someone who won't love you back? Then you need Dr. Dulcamara's Elixir of Love(TM)! Yes, drink Dr. Dulcamara's Elixir of Love (TM) today, and tomorrow all the girls will fall in love with you! But wait, that's not all! Dr. Dulcamara's Elixir of Love(TM) will make you better looking and more athletic! It removes tumors and keeps lovers going all night long! It will make you rich! How much would you pay for this miracle medicine? $20? $30? $100? Act now, and you can buy Dr. Dulcamara's Elixir of Love(TM) for the unbelievable price of $1!

This amazing offer (currency converted from zecchinos) is made in the Atlanta Opera's straightforward production of Gaetano Donizetti's comedy, L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love). Dr. Dulcamara (John Davies) sells the potion to Nemorino (Jorge Lopez-Yanez), a poor and simple peasant in love with a (somewhat) educated wealthy woman, Adina (Robin Blitch Wiper). Only one problem: turns out the elixir is just an overpriced bottle of Bourdeaux.

Whether it's sipping snake oils in the early 19th-century Basque countryside or swallowing bogus supplements in contemporary America, everyone loves a miracle cure. Human gullibility still stuffs the coffers of smooth-talking hucksters with questionable credentials: charismatic charlatans who promise to make us rich, virile and (depending on our preferences) hairy or hairless.

Through Donizetti's gentle eyes, our QVC credulity is, yes, sort of silly, but also rather lovely. It looks a lot like hope and faith, like a refusal to give up on joy. Because of the hope bought in that bottle of Bourdeaux, Adina does indeed fall in love with Nemorino (though not in precisely the manner advertised by Dulcamara), and all concerned develop a deeper respect for love.

Donizetti's nominally bel canto score, which the prolific composer completed in only two weeks, anticipates Verdi's cinematic style, choosing story over structure, nudging along the narrative with his notes. Like the peasants of its story, the music is simple, playful and full of joy.The Atlanta Opera presents Donizetti's Elixir of Love Thurs., Nov. 20, at 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 30, at 3 p.m. Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave. $21-$140. 404-881-8885. www.atlantaopera.org.

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