Revitalize Your Romance in Five Easy Steps

0089 Photo Call _ The Elixir Of Love
Nemorino (Dimitri Pittas) enlists the aid of Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli) to try to win his true love’s affection.

Pittsburgh has the “Elixir” You’ve Been Looking For

  1. Get the Elixir of Love on your calendar.

Pittsburgh Opera’s production includes performances on Saturday evening, April 21

Kittie and I at the Met, 2018-01-16
I was lucky enough to see Elixir with my sweetheart at the Met, January 2018.

and Tuesday evening, April 24, each of which pairs nicely with a sporting event (see #2 below), so decide whether you prefer a weekend getaway or the extra boost that comes from playing hooky from work for a couple days. Pick the perfect night(s) for a getaway with your sweetheart (one someone you’re hoping to make your sweetheart) and order tickets today.

Note:  Use the promo code POEVANGELIST and get 20% off when you order tickets!

  1. Make it a double header: add a Pirates or a Pens game.

The Penguins, a perennial contender for the Stanley Cup, are scheduled to host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of their seven game series on Friday, April 20. The Pirates, who are off to their best start in years, host the Detroit Tigers for an interleague game on Wednesday the 25th. Whether it’s hockey Friday/opera Saturday or opera Tuesday/baseball Wednesday, this Pittsburgh double header is sure to be a winner.

Up close at the Pens game!
  1. Book a room in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

Whether you choose the Hampton (where I recently stayed—nice rooms, full breakfast included), the Marriott, or Airbandb, plan to stay in the Strip District, where you can park your car at the hotel and walk everywhere you need to go.

Where to Eat

On my last visit to Pittsburgh I had excellent meals at S&D Polish Deli, a super casual cafeteria with amazing food, and Gaucho Parilla Argentina, a crash-the-counter style (order then sit) chill place for wood-fire grilled meats, both on Penn Avenue in the heart of the Strip.

  1. Snuggle up and listen to a little bit of the music in advance.

As I explained in a recent post, a little advance preparation can greatly enhance your experience at the opera. Start with a quick read of Pittsburgh Opera’s PDF study guide, which includes a synopsis of the opera, some background on Donizetti and the bel canto style, and some guidelines on what to listen for.

0097 Photo Call _ The Elixir Of Love
Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli) with his Elixir of Love

Next, of course, take time to get familiar with some of the musical highlights.  Offer to rub your date’s feet or back while playing a few of these lovely songs in the background. Add some flowers, candles, a little Amoretto…. Encourage your amour not to fret about understanding the lyrics at this point. Just allowing the gorgeous melodies to penetrate your soul will give you some familiarity with the opera, making it easier to feel more a part of what’s going on on stage.  By all means start by going to YouTube and listening to several great tenors singing “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (“A Furtive Tear”), one of the most famous opera songs ever written. This aria, which appears very near the end of the opera, celebrates the moment when the peasant Nemorino realizes at long last that the woman of his dreams loves him back. If you find yourself yourself drawn to this music and the emotion it conveys, dig around and find a few more of the opera’s famous songs: “Quanto amore” or “Voglio dire” or “Prendi, prendi.”

  1. Sit back, relax, and give yourself over to the experience.

To get maximum enjoyment out of the opera night portion of your romantic getaway, make sure to check into your hotel in time for an afternoon nap (or at least some down time).  Also, you might want to keep dinner on the light side and save alcohol for a night cap (or the ball game) so you don’t get sleepy during the performance.

Plan to get to the Benedum Center early and enjoy soaking in the beauty of this gorgeous 1928 gem of a performance space. (Scroll up and check out my blog’s cover photo, which I took inside the Benedum Center). Finally, don’t be thrown off by the subtitles. It’s just like watching a foreign language film.  Within minutes you’ll be drawn in by the music and the story, and you’ll forget you’re reading.

Oh, and don’t forget to hold hands!  Enjoy!

See you at the opera!


P.S.  Please share this post with a friend or two!


“This is What They Mean When They Say ‘Bel Canto’”

Norma PreConcert Lecture

Chi non ama Vincenzo Bellini non ama la musica.”—Arrigo Boito

Google Translate renders the Italian bel canto—pathetically—as “nice singing.” Better translated as “fine singing” or “beautiful singing,” the phrase gives its name to a movement of early nineteenth century Italian opera—brought to its apogee by Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini—in in which credibility takes a back seat to pure vocal glory. It was Bellini’s work on display as the LA Opera opened its season on Saturday, November 21 with Norma, a three-hour celebration of some of the most beautiful singing—and most accomplished singers—one can find on the stage today. This was definitive bel canto. LA Opera pulled out all the stops in securing four great singers for the principal roles, led by Angela Meade in the title role. In fact, in his pre-concert lecture conductor James Conlon gushed that he’d never seen a Norma with a finer collection of vocal stars.

Bel canto opera is not for everyone. Its stop-everything-and-just-sing quality can feel silly to those who prefer the through-composed works of Wagner and late Verdi. “what is Kerman’s version of the vivid continuous dream?” In his classic The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, novelist John Gardner makes the case that what readers are looking for is a chance to enter a “vivid continuous dream,” and anything a writer does to remind the reader that she is reading breaks the flow of that dream—to the detriment of pleasure and satisfaction. The artificiality of the bel canto opera’s construction—now we’re talking, oh wait, I have a strong emotion, here comes an aria—can have the effect of jarring the audience out of the dream. By contrast, consider the two of the most beloved songs work at the end of Verdi’s Otello. Desdemona’s lovely arias are 1) The Willow Song played as a song that she is recalling from her youth and singing to her, and 2) a Ave Maria, a heartfelt prayer sung as she senses her impending death. Bellini felt no anxiety about breaking the flow of the drama with a show-stopping aria. In Bellini, when a character experiences a strong emotion, times stops so she can sing.

LA Opera’s production is unapologetic, reveling in bel canto glory and giving its star performers, especially Meade and her amazing fellow soprano, the mezzo Jamie Barton, freedom to play, to show off the range and sweetness of their voices. And here it works. In fact, according to Bellini biographer Leslie Orrey, purveyors of bel canto opera have nothing for which to apologize: “The cavatina-cabaletta structure, though abused as was the da capo aria of previous operatic generations, was a legitimate one; provided that it arose out of the dramatic needs of the libretto it was psychologically right, and agreed better with the Italian view of opera than a more homogenous construction would have done. The Italians valued variety of pace more than unity of style, and if we find longueurs in their concerted finales the fault lies in the imperfections of the particular work we are listening to rather than in the ground plan of the form.” In Norma, the beautiful singing is the featured attraction, and the pair of duets in which the sopranos play off of one another in joint celebration of vocal beauty and coloratura fireworks is itself worth the price of admission.

The evening featured some of the most beautifully singing I’ve ever heard live. Leaving Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with a head full of Bellini’s melodies, it was easy to agree the assessment of Verdi’s great librettist, Arrigo Boito, that “Chi non ama Vincenzo Bellini non ama la musica.”