Don Pasquale is a well-off elderly gentleman who is fed up with his nephew Ernesto whom he sees as a wastrel, lazily sponging off him. Ernesto wants to marry Norina, but Don Pasquale will not allow it as he sees her as lower-class and unsuitable. Matters come to a head when Pasquale announces that he will find himself a wife, disinherit Ernesto and chuck him out of the house.
A plan is then concocted by Ernesto’s friend Dr Malatesta: Pasquale will be introduced to Malatesta’s sister, an irresistibly shy and demure convent girl.
The two will be married by a fake notary and as soon as that happens, the girl turns into a domineering, greedy harridan who makes Pasquale’s life a misery.
For Malatesta’s alleged sister is none other than Norina in disguise. To end his misery, he lets Ernesto marry Norina to rid himself of this dreadful woman.
The title role is played by Italian baritone Lucio Gallo in gloriously comic style, but the real star of the piece is South African soprano Pretty Yende whose magnificent high notes are matched by her confident acting which combines excellent comic timing with some very funny gestures.
She is first seen in Michieletto’s production as a photographer’s assistant, which allows her to be trained for the role of duping Pasquale while a camera is trained on her to project a huge image of her expressions, fluttering eyelashes and all, onto a screen on the stage.
Unlike most attempts to modernise operas, this trick works beautifully, fitting perfectly with the libretto and enhancing our view of the action.
The Polish baritone Andrzej Filonczyk added to the fun in the role of Malatesta, while Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga displayed a remarkably impressive and powerful voice as Ernesto, though he might have turned the volume down a shade when singing with others.
The Italian conductor Giacomo Sagripanti showed his mastery of comic opera right at the start, with some perfectly judged variations of speed in the overture which brought out the fun in Donizetti’s music.
The composer knew how to display comedy in his music and Sagripanti understands it perfectly. Comic operas are what we all need at the moment and the audience were all smiling as we left.
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