Don Pasquale


Discover the story of Donizetti's Don Pasquale

Act I

Don Pasquale is furious with his nephew

Don Pasquale has chosen a rich girl for his nephew to marry. However, things don’t go to plan as Ernesto refuses to marry her, and instead has his heart set on the impoverished widow Norina.

As punishment, Don Pasquale decides to marry for himself

Despite being an old man, Don Pasquale decides to get married himself in order to disinherit Ernesto from his fortunes. Don Pasquale seeks help from Dr Malatesta.

Despite thinking Pasquale a fool, Dr Malatesta tells him he has found him a wife already. She is pretty, modest and also Dr Malatesta’s sister.

Dr Malatesta has a cunning plan

Dr Malatesta tells Norina of his plan. She’s to pretend to be Dr Malatesta’s sister and the doctor will arrange for his cousin to perform a fake wedding ceremony. Once they’re married, Norina is to make the Don’s life so difficult he’ll be desperate to get rid of her and welcome Ernesto back home.

Photo: Clive Barda

Act II

Photo: Clive Barda

Norina is introduced to Don Pasquale as ‘Sofronia’

She acts submissive and shy, and charms Pasquale instantly. The cousin arrives to perform the fake wedding. Ernesto comes to say his goodbyes, but is horrified to see Norina marrying his uncle. Malatesta quickly tells him to settle down, and that everything will be alright.

‘Sofronia’ makes Don Pasquale’s life a nightmare

Once married, ‘Sofronia’ quickly becomes demanding and controlling. She doubles the servants’ wages and takes over Don Pasquale’s house.


‘Sofronia’ goes out to meet her lover

Pasquale watches in horror as his house fills up with new dresses, hats and furniture. ‘Sofronia’ is ready to go out, and when Pasquale tries to stop her, she tells him to go to bed and slaps him.

As she leaves she drops a letter on the floor. Pasquale reads it and finds out she is planning to meet a lover in the garden that night. Pasquale enlists the help of Dr Malatesta to ambush their secret meeting.

Don Pasquale delivers an ultimatum

Norina meets Ernesto that evening, aware that Pasquale and Malatesta are watching behind a bush. Pasquale emerges and Ernesto slips away. ‘Sofronia’ denies her guilt as Pasquale demands ‘Sofronia’ to leave.

Dr Malatesta jumps in, saying that if she doesn’t leave, she’ll have to put up with another young woman in the house – Norina, whom Pasquale’s nephew is going to marry. This doesn’t bode well for ‘Sofronia’, who agrees to leave. Pasquale arranges for Ernesto to marry Norina immediately.

The truth is revealed

Ernesto appears and ‘Sofronia’ turns back into Norina. Everything is revealed to Don Pasquale, who forgives the youngsters and is relieved his ordeal of marriage is over.

Photo: Clive Barda

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