Premiered on May 12 1832 at Teatro Canobbiana in Milan
Composed by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto written by Felice Romani, after Le Philtre by Eugène Scribe
The villagers are taking a rest from working in the fields owned by the rich Adina. Nemorino, a villager, has loved Adina from afar, but believes he can never win her heart because he is poor.
Adina comments on the book she is reading, which piques the interest of the villagers. At their request, Adina tells them the story of Tristan who made Isolde love him by drinking a magic potion.
The arrogant Sergeant Belcore enters with a bouquet of flowers for Adina. He believes without a doubt that she will soon be his. Adina would prefer not to marry. But she enjoys the attention and continues to lead him on.
Adina and Nemorino are then left alone. Nemorino reveals his true feelings for her. She remarks that she will never love him.
Dr. Dulcamara, a salesman and a quack, arrives with tonics for all sorts of ailments. Nemorino asks if the doctor has an elixir of love. Dr. Dulcamara displays a bottle of Bordeaux and proceeds with his sales pitch. With all the money his has, Nemorino buys the wine, thinking it is a love potion.
Certain that the potion will take effect by the next day, Nemorino is aloof toward Adina. Adina responds to the slight by flirting with Belcore who persuades her to marry him as soon as possible.
The guests, including Dr. Dulcamara, are all at the pre-wedding celebration. Adina frequently looks for Nemorino hoping to further punish him by going through with the marriage. Adina leaves with Belcore to sign the marriage contract.
Dr. Dulcamara, staying behind to eat his dinner, is joined by Nemorino who asks for another bottle of elixir. The doctor refuses because Nemorino has no money to pay for it.
Belcore returns irritated that Adina has postponed the wedding. Nemorino explains his financial situation to the sergeant who persuades him to join the army and receive a signing bonus. Nemorino decides to enlist.
The village girls gather in the square, gossiping about the news that Nemorino's uncle has died and left him a fortune. When Nemorino arrives, drunk from another bottle of “elixir” and unaware of his inheritance, the village girls shower him with attention. He mistakenly believes the elixir has taken effect.
Adina witnesses the display and realizes that she is in love with Nemorino. She laments her cold treatment toward him. Adina tells him that because of her love for him she bought back his enlistment papers.Belcore and the other villagers arrive to find that Nemorino and Adina are engaged. Belcore accepts the situation in stride saying that he can take his pick among thousands of women. Dulcamara immediately launches into selling more bottles of elixir, taking credit for Adina and Nemorino’s good fortune.