Opera Memphis' 'Elixir of Love'
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Tuesday at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, 1801 Exeter. Tickets are $33 to $74. Call 901-257-3100.
Ned Canty is putting on a puppet show.
The general director of Opera Memphis is sitting in his office in front of his computer, holding up stick puppets for the camera. His audience is all over the Internet.
The video he makes, explaining the plot of the company's latest opera, Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love," is soon uploaded to his Facebook page.
It joins a series of daily videos he's been making to document the process of creating the opera, which opens Saturday at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre and reprises on Tuesday.
Making the world of opera accessible to a larger audience has been Canty's calling card since taking over the company two seasons ago.
For one month last fall, he scoured the city with opera singers, performing pop-up concerts and handing out fliers.
Now, in a confessional but erudite style, he is sharing anecdotes from the rehearsal hall.
In one video, he explains how a show imagined by a director can evolve into something else over time.
"So many subtle and interesting things that the singers have brought to these roles have changed the way I think about these characters," he says. "I have a few things that I want to change. … To me, I think that (tone) is the most interesting thing that a director does."
The puppets immediately alert opera fans to some of the tonal changes in Donizetti's 1832 comic opera, starting with the fact that the characters are dressed in Wild West outfits.
Though the Italian opera originally took place in 18th century Basque country, the story of a man who buys a love potion from a traveling salesman lends itself to a small town in cowboy country.
The hero, a poor peasant named Nemorino, buys a potion in order win the love of Adina, a beautiful landowner. When the first order of elixir doesn't quite do the trick, he takes more drastic measures.
Canty says that "Elixir of Love" is an interesting comedy because of "how much sentiment there is."
For a decade in the mid-1800s, "Elixir of Love" was the most-often-performed opera in Italy. From 2008 to 2012, the opera was the 13th-most-produced opera in the world. This is Opera Memphis' first production of it in three decades.
Metropolitan Opera bass Richard Lugo will sing the role of elixir purveyor Dr. Dulcamara. Conductor David Hayes of the Philadelphia Orchestra will make his Opera Memphis debut.