Love is like bad medicine in comic opera L'Elisir D'Amore (The Elixir Of Love), as a peasant tries to win the woman of his dreams by buying a fake love potion from a quack doctor.
This weekend, the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) will be staging Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti's popular 19th-century opera.
In the opera, the peasant Nemorino, pining for wealthy, fickle landowner Adina, is conned by wandering doctor Dulcamara into buying an "elixir" - cheap wine, in reality - that is supposed to make her fall in love with him.
Adina, who is refusing to recognise that she has feelings for Nemorino, tries to make him jealous by agreeing to marry the self-important Sergeant Belcore.
Veteran British director Tom Hawkes, who will be helming the SLO production, says what he likes best about it is its joyousness. "It makes me feel happy whenever I hear the music."
Hawkes, who is in his late 70s and has been directing professionally for more than 50 years, has previously helmed other SLO productions, such as Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni and Rigoletto.
BOOK IT / L'ELISIR D'AMORE
WHERE: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm, Monday, 8pm
ADMISSION: $35 to $145 for evening shows, $30 to $85 for matinees via Sistic before booking fees (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
L'Elisir is known for its three major tenor-soprano duets, as well as the popular tenor aria Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Furtive Tear), the romanza which Nemorino sings when he believes the elixir has worked.
It is sung in the bel-canto style, which Hawkes says poses the greatest challenge in staging. "It requires both great agility and lyrical voice production from all the principals."
The opera will be led by conductor Joshua Kangming Tan and, besides an adult chorus of 45, will also feature 25 children from the SLO Children's Choir as well as dances choreographed by Jeffrey Tan and Ryan Tan.
Award-winning Australian soprano Elena Xanthoudakis, 35, will play Adina, a demanding role, with the character evolving from judgmental and quick to react, to having empathy.
"In Adina's case, her gut reaction to being slighted causes her to almost marry the completely wrong man," she says.
Xanthoudakis has played Adina a number of times before, including with the Scottish Opera and the Victorian Opera in Melbourne.
"The challenge in performing Adina is to find the line of truth, to play her not as a heartless or flighty woman, but as a complex character," she says.
Tenor Kee Loi Seng will play Nemorino, with Jonathan Tay taking his place for the matinee. Soprano Teo Kai Xin will play Adina during the matinee.
Says Hawkes of Donizetti's conclusions about love: "Love is cruel, love is fickle, love is transitory - but fidelity wins out in the end."