We take a look at Mariame Clément’s much-loved production of Donizetti’s comedy, Don Pasquale. Subscribers can watch now on Glyndebourne Encore.
May’s Opera of the Month on Glyndebourne Encore is Mariame Clément’s much-loved production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.
Over on Glyndebourne Encore, subscribers can watch Don Pasquale in full, and explore the opera with director Mariame Clément, Danielle de Niese (Norina), Alek Shrader (Ernesto), Nikolay Borchev (Malatesta), Alessandro Corbelli (Don Pasquale) and conductor Enrique Mazzola.
A brief introduction
Don Pasquale – almost the last opera Donizetti would write – is the culmination and climax of a whole career. The composer takes all his extensive experience of the theatre and pours it into this deceptively nostalgic, lightweight comedy that displays as much invention and expertise as any of his mature tragedies.
Miserly old bachelor Don Pasquale vows to get married and produce an heir so he can cut his feckless nephew Ernesto – who is determined to marry the poor widow Norina – out of his will. But lovers Norina and Ernesto set a trap for Pasquale, scheming with Dr Malatesta to marry Pasquale off to his ‘sister’ (really Norina in disguise) and make his life such a misery that he’ll consent to anything just to get rid of his troublesome wife. Romantic and domestic conflict ensues…
Full of sparkling solo numbers and dazzling ensembles, this fast-paced farce tumbles from laughter to love and back again in a second. There’s plenty of musical sweetness, but also a sharp edge to a comedy that cuts to the heart of human nature.
Why not to miss this production
Mariame Clément’s darkly ‘astute’ staging (‘hitting the mark with sure but unemphatic touch’) moves Donizetti’s action back in time – from the 19th-century to the 18th, with its sumptuous wigs, dresses and interiors. Julia Hansen’s elegant designs provide a period dolls house to frame action with contemporary psychological edge: ‘buffa as blood sport’, as one critic described it.
Donizetti’s comedies can be frothy affairs, but Clément delivers both laughs and darkness, in a production that isn’t afraid to show the cynical underbelly of this uproarious domestic farce.
A great moment to look out for
Our first encounter with heroine Norina is in her mischievous Act I aria ‘Quel guardo il cavaliere…So anchio la virtu magica’. Reading a romantic, chivalric novel, she tosses it aside, telling us that she knows the real secrets of love and desire (as opposed to fiction’s clichés). The aria that follows the classic two-part slow/fast structure.
First Norina paints a knowing picture of all the tricks of love – a tear, a smile a glace – in a jaunty, worldly melody. In the faster cabaletta her attention turns to herself and her own romantic skills. Giddy with confidence and youth she works herself up into an effervescent musical frenzy that sets the tone for this sparkling comedy of manners.
Cast and creative team
Alessandro Corbelli stars in the title role, with Danielle de Niese as Norina, Nikolay Borchev as Malatesta and Alek Shrader as Ernesto.
Enrique Mazzola conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Image credits: Don Pasquale, Festival 2013, photos by Clive Barda