"L'Elisir d'Amore" ("The Love Potion") the second offering of the Washington Opera, is Gaetano Donizetti's great comic opera about what a mess love is and the importance of a Food and Drug Administration listing the ingredients of bottles.
In Act I we find Adina, who has a lot of money and two beaux, each dumber than the other, entertaining her peasants. She is reading "Tristan and Isolde" out loud to them, and they love it. Everybody agrees what fun it would be to have some passion-in-a-bottle, like Isolde.
Adina rejects her military admirer, Sergeant Belcore, advising him, "Slow down, for God's sake" ("Pui tempo, oh Dio"); and her peasant admirer, Nemorino, advising him to find someone else.
Smarts are not in abundant supply in this town. When Dr. Dulcamara, the snake-oil salesman, arrives and offers his cure-all for only one scudo, everybody crowds around him singing, "One scudo! You must be kidding!" ("Uno scudo! Veramente?") Actually, it's only Bordeaux, and a terrible year at that. But Nemorino buys some, after being told that it is a love potion with delayed action (the action to be delayed until Dr. Dulcamara gets out of town), and sings "Boy, am I obliged to you!" ("Obbligato, ah! si obbligato!") to Dr. D.
Well, it works, all right; Nemorino starts acting like someone who is full of cheap vino and Adina is driven crazy by what seems to be his sudden indifference to her. Only instead of throwing herself in his arms, she decides to get even by marrying Sgt. Belcore, who wants to hold the wedding immediately because he has received his marching orders.
Act II begins with the wedding feast, in which the bridegroom sings "You Go to My Head" ("Per me l'a-more e il vino"). The bride and Dulcamara sing of ideal love: "I'm rich and you're beautiful" ("Io soon ricco et tu sei bella").
Nemorino complains that he's still waiting for the love potion to work and it's getting mighty near the deadline, even though Adina has postponed the ceremony until nightfall. The doctor says he needs another dose, but he can't afford it. Then Sgt. Belcore tells him that there's 20 scudi bounty for enlisting in the army, besides, you get to meet girls at the U. S. O. dances. Nemorino accepts.
However, everybody else in town knows that Nemorino's rich uncle has just died, leaving him a fortune. The village girls find the idea of a wealthy Nemorino highly improbable ("Possibilissimo, non e probabile") but they all go tearing after him, which he attributes to the irrestible powers of the Bordeaux. Adina is beside herself with jealousy, and he airily tells her that he can imagine why she's after him now ("Io gia m'immagino") but so long, honey.
"Such love, she laments, "And I had to go spit in his eye." ("Quanto amor! ed io, spieta!") Dr. Dulcamara suggests a medicinal snort, but she thinks she'll stick to the old come-on look. Actually, it's already worked; Nemorino is sorry it's already worked; Nemorino is sorry he was rude and is singing that smoke must have gotten in her eye ("Una furtiva lagrima").
They manage to get together, Adina having bought his way out of the army, and she advises Sgt. Belcore to try the U. S. O. himself. They then both discover that he is rich, and so everyone lives happily ever after, especially Dr. Dulcamara, who is able to unload cases of Bordeaux on the chorus by using Nemorino's endorsement.