Opera Scotland

Don Pasquale 2014Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale may not seem the obvious vehicle to reunite the successful production team that gave us the 2009 Manon, but their sense of style certainly helped with an opera that, unlike other Donizetti pieces, seems to have lost some popularity in recent years. It is a work that can sink like a stone if not handled with sensitivity. With four obviously stock characters it can be difficult to make any of the principals seem remotely sympathetic. If that is not attempted then the evening can seem rather brittle, though it can work even on that basis.

On the whole this conception, essentially given a 1960s Roman setting, worked well. Pasquale was the proprietor of a pensione, Ernesto an employee in this small family business, and a small staff kept things ticking over, including copious quantities of drying laundry to screen scene changes effectively (perhaps less so for the final garden scene). A roof terrace upstairs allowed for variety, and chorus members played extras as required, generally disgruntled guests or tourists. The interior was seedy - shocking pink decor, and multitudes of model cats everywhere. While the boss may have been coining the money through his business, he was clearly not keen on spending it.

As for the cast, while it is disappointing that the two undoubted stars originally announced, Bruno Praticò and Colin Lee, dropped out, their replacements made a strong impression. Alfonso Antoniozzi first sang in Scotland as Bartolo when Sir Charles Mackerras recorded Figaro at the Edinburgh Festival in the mid-nineties. He is an expert comic, with an expressive face and excellent timing. Perhaps the voice was now a bit dry-toned, but his diction was wonderfully crisp, especially in the vital patter duet 'Cheti, cheti' with Malatesta. His general shambling appearance worked well, underdressed at the start before adopting bright blue double-breasted suit, co-respondent shoes and a prince of comb-overs for his wedding. Aldo Di Toro is a young Australian tenor who has sung several major roles wiith Opera Holland Park, as well as at the Sydney Opera House, and now lives in Italy. His Ernesto proved sweet-toned and he presented an appropriately puppyish and eager character.

The Australian baritone Nicholas Lester has developed steadily with English Touring Opera and seemed overdue for a major role with one of the national companies. Here he made a dapper and surprisingly sympathetic Malatesta, though his Abe Lincoln style beard seemed a shade more 1860s than 1960s.

The role of Norina is extremely difficult to get right, and it was lovely to hear Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson build on the success of her Zerlina a few months back. The crystalline articulation in her coloratura flights never became shrill, and she always managed to hint at the character's fundamental good nature, which can easily be lost. Andrew McTaggart's brief appearance as the lawyer came over well, complete with two-fingered typing.

Francesco Corti has not conducted much bel canto repertoire with Scottish Opera, only Puritani, L'elisir and Barbiere. This is a pity, since the style seems to suit him well. He drew beautiful playing from the orchestra, and adopted generally fleet tempi. Only occasionally did it seem a bit too fast, most notably in Ernesto's lament 'Cercherò lontana terra' with its mournful trumpet solo - there are few moments for genuine emotion and this was underplayed.

One administrative point needs to be mentioned. The Theatre Royal is undergoing major rebuilding, as a result of which the bar in which latecomers could watch a live screening is in temporary abeyance. At the final Glasgow performance large numbers were admitted to the auditorium (upstairs) during the overture. Perhaps this would just have been acceptable if they had been directed quietly to the empty seats on row-ends. In the event, a noisy stampede resulted as customers made their way to their reserved places, with an excessive amount of clattering of seats and general disturbance. The enjoyment of the overture, and the witty projected illustrations accompanying it, was quite ruined. 

Performance Cast

Don Pasquale a wealthy, elderly bachelor

Alfonso Antoniozzi

Malatesta Pasquale's doctor and friend

Nicholas Lester

Ernesto Pasquale's nephew

Aldo Di Toro

Norina a young widow

Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson

Carlo Malatesta's cousin, disguised as a Notary

Andrew McTaggart

Performance DatesDon Pasquale 2014

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

24 Jan, 19.15 26 Jan, 16.00 29 Jan, 19.15 1 Feb, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

18 Feb, 19.15 20 Feb, 19.15 22 Feb, 19.15

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