Don Pasquale

The music

Discover the music of Donizetti's Don Pasquale

Photo: Clive Barda

In the century before Donizetti, Italian operas came in two main varieties:

Opera buffa
  • Plots about ordinary people
  • Light-hearted subject matter and musical style
Opera seria
  • Grand, impressive characters
  • Equally grand, impressive music

In the 19th century the lines between the two varieties became blurred.

In Don Pasquale Donizetti used elements of opera seria alongside a basic framework of opera buffa.

You can hear this operatic crossover from the start of the opera:

  • Opera buffa: The orchestral overture begins with a loud, fast and energetic outburst.
  • Opera seria: The energetic start is immediately followed by a beautiful melody, neither entirely happy nor sad, but slow, gentle, and marked ‘dolce’ (sweet).

Even in Donizetti’s time people wanted to be able to buy scores of the latest operas. Copyists and editors turned Donizetti’s own handwritten score into printed versions, sometimes making mistakes, and sometimes copying Donizetti’s own mistakes, which were gradually passed down to the scores used today.

Editors or conductors familiar with Donizetti’s musical style and language have to interpret what the composer wrote down, deciding what his markings mean.

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