L’Elisir d’Amore / Metropolitan Opera

Eric C. Simpson

New York Classical Review

Matthew Polenzani carried much of Tuesday’s performance as Nemorino—not for a moment did he break from his endearing portrayal of the gullible mark, nor did his clear tenor show the slightest hint of wear. His comic drunken antics delighted, but the earnestness of his affections was disarming, too. His voice rang brilliantly all night, nowhere better than in his splendid rendition of the touchstone aria “Una furtiva lagrima.” He showed exemplary dynamic control, exploring the full range of the aria: his creamy, caramel tone swelling to full-throated joy before tapering back down to a misty, mixed-voice pianissimo.

“Polenzani, the Illinois tenor with over 300 Met performances in 37 roles on his resume, delivers a strong Nemorino. L’Elisir is a tenor’s showcase (little wonder Pavarotti sang it so often) and from his opening “Quanto e bella” through “Adina, credimi” and especially in the moving “Una furtiva lagrima,” which drew extended applause, Polenzani’s robust and assured vocal powers shine through.”

Wilborn Hampton, Huffington Post

“Mr. Polenzani was a worthy foil, singing with pliant strength and clarion tone while tracing his character’s shifting moods and dispositions, from love-struck, clumsy confusion to puffed-up confidence, owing to what he thinks is a love potion when he is in fact getting drunk on cheap wine.

After all that, Mr. Polenzani summoned melting emotion in his second-act showpiece, “Una furtiva lagrima,” fondling and polishing the tone like a fine jewel. As it invariably does when well executed, the aria brought down even this relatively staid house.”

James R. Oestreich, New York Times

“Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino effectively captured the essence of an unrequited lover, clumsily tailing Adina as he pined away, yet also able to hide his presence in some moments. As he jostled his way through the crowd gathered to hear Adina tell the story of “Tristan and Isolde,” his desire made him not above taking the seat of a child after giving a quick and comic push. The confidence he gained after drinking the supposed magic elixir was something to behold as Polenzani happily leaped from crate to crate in the market, waving about a rifle with the barrel often inches away from his hands and face all while singing with excitement and vocal flair. As the second act continued, Nemorino’s newfound wealth made him the sudden object of every woman’s affection, creating a delightful exit as he was chased into the night by a pack of bachelorettes headed up by the adorably-small Ashley Emerson as Gianetta. The humor of his departure was transformed into a richness of contemplation upon his return as the orchestra began the first measures of “Una furtiva lagrima.” Polenzani took the audience on an intoxicating journey, concluded by savoring the first syllable of “d’amore” to a length where his voice danced on the verge of breaking into a joyful cry.”

Logan Martell, OperaWire

“Nemorino wanders into a cornfield for his much-anticipated Act II aria ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ and it was a flawlessly idiomatic interpretation that included sublime diminuendos and a melting mezza-voce. Rarely do a tenor and soprano have such chemistry on stage and radiate a genuine joy in performing together as Polenzani and Yende did.”

Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard International

“Polenzani gives a master class on Donizetti here, with his warm, natural and expressive tenor voice and keen understanding of the character’s emotions. Where others might showboat on an aria as well known and perfectly written as Una furtiva lagrima, Polenzani keeps Nemorino front and center instead of himself, coupling his interpretation of Nemorino’s epiphany with exquisite pianissimo and a poignant forte warmth. His beautiful, seemingly effortless tenor makes spectating a decidedly stress-free experience for the audience; instead of wondering whether he’ll manage to Do The Thing, he simply does it with relaxed ease and a consistently gorgeous tone that never breaks the fourth wall to remind us he is A Great Tenor. He is always firmly Nemorino.”

Suzanne Magnuson, Splash Magazine

“Matthew Polenzani, Nemorino when the production was new, has brought the role to a point of stylistic perfection that is unlikely to be surpassed, creating a character who is consistently sympathetic and never silly.”

George Loomis, Opera Magazine