Young Nemorino reaps only torment for his self-abnegating love of Adina. While secretly fascinated by the poor peasant, she openly rejects him and encourages the advances of Captain Belcore. The travelling quack Dulcamara may have the answer: His »Isolde’s Love Potion« promises to let people live out their dreams – and make Nemorino the most desirable bachelor in the village. In his opera »L’elisir d’amore« from 1832, Gaetano Donizetti applied his quick wit and inexhaustible wealth of ideas to depict various forms of love, whether cheerfully mocked adulation or tortured passion, as in Nemorino’s famous lament »Una furtiva lagrima«. This production by director Michael Schulz uses various surprise effects to melt the cold hearts of the arrogant characters, revealing to them the meaning of life and love.
Shy Nemorino has loved Adina for ages — but in vain, for Adina regularly rejects his amorous confessions. Nemorino is not bothered by her behaviour , and even admires her intelligence — she even knows the story of Tristan and Isolde — but thinks of himself as an idiot. Suddenly, Nemorino finds himself in competition with Belcore, a sergeant, who, unlike Nemorino, is not remotely plagued by insecurity — then and there he proposes to Adina. A solution seems to be at hand in the guise of "Doctor" Dulcamara, who has a miracle cure on offer for all the problems and afflictions of this world. Nemorino asks him about the love potion which appears in Tristan and Isolde. Dulcamara sells him a bottle of red wine as a love potion and claims that if Nemorino drinks it within twenty-four hours, it will cause his love for Adina to be reciprocated. Convinced of the speedy effect of the potion, Nemorino now ignores Adina. Belcore must return to the front. Irritated that Nemorino has obviously lost interest in her, Adina accepts Belcore's proposal of marriage. The wedding is now to take place that very evening — too early for the love potion to have its desired effect. Nemorino implores Adina to postpone the wedding, but to no avail.
The wedding festivities have begun, but Adina drags her feet in signing the marriage agreement. Nemorino turns once more to Dulcamara for help. He suggests a second bottle of the love potion, but Nemorino lacks the funds to buy it. In his distress, he sees no choice but to be recruited as a soldier by his rival, Belcore, so that he may then afford the potion with his wages. The rumour spreads amongst the wedding guests that Nemorino has become rich after the death of an uncle. Suddenly, Nemorino is the center of attention and the women flock to him. Adina becomes aware of her love for Nemorino. But when Dulcamara tells her of the potion as well, she refuses, saying that she believes in herself and does not need to resort to such things. Moved by the valour with which Nemorino has shown his love, Adina pays a sum to free him from the contract he has signed with Belcore. Adina and Nemorino are finally united. Dulcamara is overjoyed with what he thinks is the successful result of his dealings.