If you ever needed a cheer-me-up, we heartily recommend a sip of Donizetti's Elixir of Love, the effervescent show at the SF Opera. Or, two sips of it, since there's a family version which packs some of the same good-hearted fun and the same sweet romance into a crisp, condensed two hours.

Luckily, we had the pleasure of enjoying both.

Both share an attractive albeit simple set and a few props -- a cute ice-cream truck, a motorcycle with a side-car, and a magic suitcase. The opera (written in 1832) is set in the Napa Valley of 1914, a change of time and scenery which is almost inconsequential. The unrequited and superfluous irruption of the First World War at the final curtain arrives to late to be bothersome: it serves only as a reminder that stage directors (here, James Robinson) like to insert gravity in their works so as to be taken seriously. But Robinson did not manage to prick the balloon of fun and levity he successfully inflated during the rest the show.

Pictures courtesy of SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy. Above, Ramon Vargas, below Inva Mula and Alessandro Corbelli