Randy Behavior and Bourgeois Bad Manners in Don Pasquale

08/04/2014

 Donizetti, Don Pasquale: Soloists of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Omer Ben Seadia (stage director), Mark Gibson (conductor), CCM Corbett Auditorium, Cincinnati, OH. 4.3.2014 (RDA)

Of all of Donizetti’s operas, the one I’m the fondest of is a creation of the composer-turned-librettist with some marginal editorial assists from Giovanni Ruffini and Angelo Anelli. Don Pasquale is a delicious concoction filled with spirited patter tunes and long-lined bel canto melodies. Nothing sounds forced, no boiler plate music plagues it. It is as perfect a comic opera as the best of its era.

In 1843 Donizetti was in demand and at the top of his game, and the Rome premiere of Don Pasquale was hugely successful. Luigi Lablache sang the title role in a dream cast with Giulia Grisi as Norina, Giovanni Matteo Mario as Ernesto and Antonio Tamburini as Dr. Malatesta.

The music in this Donizetti opera (his 64th!) does not call for large voices in the Lucia/La Favorita/Maria Stuarda vein—rather, lightness and comic nimbleness. Everybody in this cast gets to do patter singing, never better and funnier than in the “Cheti cheti” duet for the bass and the baritone before the garden scene. Each of the four principals sings at least one aria and a duet with one of his fellow cast members. And then, the mostly silent chorus is given a juicy number at the halfway mark.

The CCM cast is A-to-Z up to the task at hand, with Charles (Zak) Owen, a hugely promising young lyric bass in his early 20’s, playing the Don with assuredness and delicacy. In performances full of nice singing and devoid of buffo buffoonery, Conor McDonald is a fine Malatesta, Alec Carlson a convincing Ernesto, and Summer Hassan a full-voiced Adina.

In her main-stage directorial debut, Israeli director Omer Ben Seadia leads her cast with a full command of the style that infuses the spirit of Donizetti’s masterpiece. In her production there’s little shtick, and hardly any gratuitous push for laughs. Ms. Sedia’s comedic conceits are solidly anchored in the raucous Italian commedia tradition of randy behavior and bourgeois bad manners that Carlo Goldoni perfected.

The production is handsome and the opera is allowed to tell its story without any unwelcome design or directorial decorations. Donizetti calls for Rome and Ben Seadia and her design team give him mid-19th-century Rome, setting the story in a series of interiors and exteriors, designed by Tom Umfid to look both tacky and funny. Angelina Vyushkova manages in act two to give us “…a gentle mid-April night under a blue sky and an unveiled moon,” just as Donizetti’s Ernesto sings in his nocturnal serenade. The singers are perfectly costumed by Regina Truhart and beautifully made up, coiffed and bewigged by Amy E. Whitaker.

The irreplaceable Mark Gibson leads the orchestra, principals and chorus with panache and a complete understanding of bel canto style, with brisk tempi and a good balance between stage and pit and overall clarity. Altogether this is an imaginative production of an opera that does not come around as often as it deserves, certainly not in a period-perfect staging as this one.

Two of the cast members go from this final production of the 2013-2014 CCM season, to make their professional debuts with regional operas around the country. Robin Guarino, brilliantly manages to combine a successful national and international career as a stage director with her intensive commitment to CCM and to the training of the next generation of opera stars.

Rafael de Acha

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! The Twelfth English Music Festival Coming Soon in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty at the London Coliseum in June __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! The London Orchestra Project’s Metamorphosen on 27 May at LSO St Luke’s __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month