Top Five Most Potent Love Spells in Opera

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 11:00 AM

Looking for magic in a relationship isn’t merely a figure of speech. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we searched the opera repertoire for the five most potent love potions and spells (at least in terms of their influence on plot development). Their actual efficacy might be a little more suspect.

1. Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Some will say that that Tristan and Isolde don’t need to drink a potion to stir their amorous feelings, and the love drought they imbibe, believing it to be poison, is in fact powerless. Regardless, the quaff stirs a deep passion between the star-crossed lovers an in the orchestra, which makes us believe the potion was more than just a placebo.

2. Donezetti: The Elixir of Love

The titular elixir of Donezetti’s L’elisir d’amore doesn’t carry a supernatural punch, even if the peddler Dulcamara sells it under the name Tristan’s elixir. The potion is actually a bottle of mediocre Burgundy, but the wine provides enough liquid courage to convince the lovelorn Nemorino that his beloved Adina is falling for him.

3. Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Benjamin Britten gets more than a little help from Shakespeare in spinning the love spells in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Like the Bard’s play, four Athenians walk into a forest and by the time they leave, they’re paired up nicely, thanks to the mischievous Puck and the magical herb that he rubs across eyelids. Upon waking the person whose eyelids were bedewed falls madly in love with the first thing in sight.

4. Montemezzi: L'incantesimo

Written for an NBC radio broadcast in 1943, L'incantesimo by the Italian verismo composer Italo Montemezzi translates to “The Love Spell.” The one-act opera tells the story of a nobleman, Folco, who sees his dead wife’s face on a deer. A sorcerer instructs Folco to find the deer to retain his wife’s love. However, it’s another contemporaneous spell that is executed to fruition.

5.  Handel: Alcina

Handel’s heroine Alcina (based on the sorceress in Arioso’s epic poem, Orlando Furioso) entangles men who land upon her enchanted island with love spells. Then when she tires of her enchanted suitors, she turns them into animals, stones, and plants. When the knight Ruggiero lands upon her isle and Alcina seduces him, making him forget his family and fiancée Bradamante. Eventually a magical ring allows Ruggiero to see again with clear eyes, and breaks Alcina’s spell.


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Comments [7]

Sharon M from Fair Lawn, NJ

Fred; Re: Montemezzi opera -- his dead wife's face on a DEER?? That sounds more worthy of a Halloween-themed article than one for Valentine's Day! Finding love in all the wrong places???
Thanks for another thought-provoking article.

Feb. 10 2016 08:21 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Nice choices. comments about NBC. yeah, remember when they were owned by
the Sarnoffs? we got NBC Opera, Symphony. Now we get real housewives of Atlanta, Hoboken, Ash Flat Arkansas and other crap.

Feb. 09 2016 07:08 AM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

In "Die Frau ohne Schatten" the Nurse conjures up a beautiful young man (sung by an offstage tenor but played onstage by a dancer) so that the wife of Barak. a dyer, would fall into sin and thus liberate the shadow that the Empress desires in order to become human - I know, it's complicated! If that conjoining had taken place, the opera would have been over. Fortunately for those of us who love the opera, said conjoining is twice interrupted! Mr. Gelb, please bring it back into the repetoire!!

Feb. 15 2013 03:39 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Answering DuckDeadeye regarding "Amahl and the Night Visitors", NBC did commision Menotti and gave the television premiere in 1951. A recording was made; and I presume it's available on C.D. Hans Heinsheimer, formerly of Universal Edition and G. Schirmer, tells the story of how Menotti finished the opera at the end of November just short of the performance date, and how a team of copyists worked day and night to have the score and parts ready. His talk is found in the WNYC Municipal Archives on page 36.

Feb. 15 2013 06:11 AM

Re. L'Incantesimo -- "Written for an NBC radio broadcast in 1943" -- kudos to NBC. Were they also the broadcasters of "Amahl"?

Feb. 15 2013 02:59 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

There's the evil-intended love potion in "Go"tterda"mmerung" in which Siegfried is led to believe that his true-love is Gutrune and thereby hangs the tale that culminated in his murder by Hagen and Bru"nnhilde's immolation.

Feb. 14 2013 06:05 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

OPERA MORE THAN ANY OTHER ART FORM, CONSIDERING IT MAY INCLUDE SET DESIGNS, COSTUME DESIGNS, DRAMATURGY, BALLET,ORCHESTRAL MUSIC AND VOCAL COMMUNICATION IS THE DEFINITIVE ICON FOR COMMUNICATION, THROUGH MUSIC TO HEIGHTEN THE EMOTIONAL LEVEL. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. My websites where one may download, free, my singing of 37 out of the 100 selections that I have sung in four solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to Recorded Selections;, and
Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are: Tristan, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan Federico and Eleazar.

Feb. 13 2013 05:47 PM

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