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Don Pasquale

Published by: James Senor on 13th Nov 2015 | View all blogs by James Senor

Reviewed 10th November 2015

DP 1 Tristram Kenton

image Tristram Kenton

Based on the works of Geatano Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffini, Don Pasquale first played as an opera in 1843. An immense success it has come to be regarded as one of the finest examples of Italian Opera Buffa along with Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Donizetti’s own L’elisir d’amore. It is therefore naturally a challenge for any director who tries to recreate the magic of the original.

The play follows the formula of Commedia Dell’arte which represents four different stock characters. Don Pasquale symbolizes the Pantalone, a man only concerned about money, a character based on currency and ego who also has the highest regards for his own intelligence and status. Ernesto, the Pierrot, a sad clown-like figure pining for the love of Columbine. Malatesta, the Scapino, a zanni character who works behind the scenes to trick and deceive, also associated with escape. And Norina as Columbina, a servant playing the tricky slave, often the only functional intellect on the stage.  

Here, these characters are vividly visualized and brought to life, aided by the costume department (supervised by Kate Vaughan) which portrays each character in a distinctive colour, which they wear at all times, symbolising their stock characters: Pantalone in red, the colour of dominance and power, Pierrot, in green the colour of nature, Columbine in pink, symbolising love, and the Scapino head to toe in black, a colour associated with mystery and the unknown. The attention to detail by the designers is outstanding, every prop essential to enriching the story and Julia Hansen’s staging is highly effective.

DP2 Tristram Kenton

image Tristram Kenton

The story follows Malatesta’s attempts to convince Don Pasquale to realise his foolish ways and in turn allow Ernesto to marry Norina. He plans to disguise Norina as his sister, who he has offered to Don Pasquale as a wife. After a fake marriage, notarised by a fake notary, Norina is then to treat Don Pasquale with malice and aggression to open his eyes to his foolish desires and teach him a lesson. 

At the beginning of the opera Malatesta is seen moving between rooms, appearing climbing through a portrait in one and emerging from a bath tub in another wall as the stage revolves to reveal each room. The use of these sets and the way the character moves through them give the audience an early sense of the style of the opera – a sense of comic slap stick. The scenes immediately following this opening did not continue this sense and although the first Act was powerful, with each character performing an aria; tenor Tuomas Katajala playing Ernesto in particular was exceptional, there was a slight feeling that the Mariame Clément director was presenting the singing skills of the cast as opposed to creating the atmosphere of the narrative. Acts 2 and 3 however, were much more enjoyable with amusing scenes, interesting staging, excellent acting and superb singing ability. The opera bounced back and managed to re-capture the magic for which it was so famous for on its first performance. 

Glyndebourne plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14th November then continuing on tour.

Milton Keynes Box office 0844 871 7652 










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