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The notion of 'Potion'
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff

Laura Langseth sings with the chorus during a recent rehearsal of "The Love Potion," an Elgin Opera production.


Mary Beth Nolan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/3/2008 11:56 PM

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If you've never been to an opera before, this weekend in Elgin might make you fall in love.

"The Love Potion," which is the show Elgin Opera is performing at the Hemmens Cultural Center, promises to intrigue, entice and uplift.

"It is a funny opera. It's very accessible for people who have never heard opera before," explained Elgin resident and opera composer Solange Sior.

"The music is lively and upbeat."

The Elgin Opera company was founded in 2001 and has performed in many venues in and around Elgin and the Chicago area.

But this weekend is the first time they've taken the Hemmens stage, and they will be accompanied by a 40-piece orchestra.

In "The Love Potion," or "L'Elisir D'Amore" in Italian, the peasant Nemorino believes the only way to win the love of Adina, a wealthy landowner played by Sior, is with a magical love potion.

A doctor sells Nemorino a bottle of cheap wine called "Tristan's Magic Love Potion."

The drink is not magical but Nemorino thinks it is because a bunch of young ladies pursue him. He gains confidence to pursue Adina -- but surprises are in store for him that go beyond her and the potion.

The 40 singing cast members, including five lead performers, have been practicing for months.

One challenge was learning the lyrics in Italian (English subtitles will be shown on a large screen).

Another was coordinating all the soldiers, sets and costumes.

The cast features a mix of singers. One of the youngest is Erica Roti, an 8-year-old from South Elgin who plays a peasant girl.

Roti has been with Elgin Opera for about a year and hopes to be a singer when she grows up.

"I love to sing, especially opera. I like to hit the high notes," said Roti, adding she's not nervous because she's been before large crowds in the past.

"Since I was little, I've always loved to perform."

Roti's father, Jim, also will be at the Hemmens for this weekend's shows.

But instead of sitting in the audience, he'll be on stage as a soldier.

Rachel Ferguson, an eighth-grader at Central Middle School in District 301, has only been with Elgin Opera since the summer.

But she's already hooked on performing, despite some challenges learning the songs in Italian.

"At first it was (difficult) but once you pick up the words it gets easier," said Ferguson, whose dad, Peter, also plays a soldier. "I'm already looking forward to the next performance."

The show also is a family affair for Meghan Smeenge, an Elgin woman who has been with Elgin Opera for two years and singing since 1995.

She said "The Love Potion" is a production with a much grander scale than that of "Madame Butterfly," which Elgin Opera performed last year.

Smeenge is a chorus singer and her husband, Paul, plays a soldier, notary and servant.

"We're both very, very excited. We're not nervous. I can't wait for Feb. 9 to get here," Meghan Smeenge said.

"I love the music and story so much, I can't even wait for rehearsals.

Smeenge agreed that "The Love Potion" is accessible to people who have never seen an opera before.

"The music is so much fun. It's very uplifting. It's almost a party atmosphere, and it has a happy ending. Operas don't usually have happy endings," she said.

The two performances will feature two acts and an intermission.

The performances Saturday and Sunday are presented by the city of Elgin.

For more information, or tickets, call the Hemmens box office at (847) 931-5900 or visit

If you go

What: "The Love Potion," an Italian opera, will be performed by Elgin Opera with a full orchestra.


• 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin.

• 7 p.m. Feb. 24, a smaller version of "The Love Potion" will be held at Drendel Hall, 12880 Del Webb Blvd., Huntley, for Sun City residents only. For reservations, call (847) 515-7650.

Cost: $30 to $40 for performances at Hemmens Cultural Center

Information: (847) 931-5900, or visit