United States Donizetti, Don Pasquale: Seattle Opera Young Artists Program, soloists, Seattle Opera Young Artists Program Orchestra, Brian Garman (conductor), Peter Kazaras (director), Meany Hall, Seattle, 31.3.2012 (BJ)
There was, as usual, a deal of good singing to be heard in this, the Young Artists Program’s first appearance in the University of Washington’s Meany Hall, to which the program has migrated from its smaller former venue in Bellevue.
The title role was strongly taken by Michael Uloth, who succeeded in making Don Pasquale a figure of pathos rather than sheer absurdity. David Krohn was a crisply witty Dr. Malatesta. I am not about to suggest that the opening-night Ernesto, Andrew Stenson, is the next Tito Schipa, but he has a fine tenor voice that he uses with some discretion—and if his rather loud serenata in Act 3 abandoned that discretion, well, the great Schipa himself can be heard shouting a bit in the classic La Scala recording of 1932. The one guest in the cast, Kenny Enlow, offered a suitably comic Carlotto. But the most impressive singing of all came from Amanda Opuszynski, a Norina of charming voice, dazzling technical facility, and the sort of fetching appearance one doesn’t always have the pleasure of watching in the role.
For this production (shorn of the relatively minor choral component) director Peter Kazaras had transferred the action to 1950s or ’60s Rome, the period of Fellini’s La dolce vita. The change of period mostly worked well enough, though it was odd that a young man of that time should express the consternation we heard from Ernesto at the prospect of such essentially 19th-century problems as being disinherited by his uncle and having to find some place to live out the rest of his life in lonely misery. I also doubt whether any 1950s or ’60s gentleman, Italian or otherwise, would have persisted in keeping his hat on indoors—a distinct breach of etiquette, as I learned at a very early age.
In other respects Deborah Trout’s costumes were appropriate and attractive, and the sets by Donald Eastman and lighting by Chris Reay worked beautifully. The YAP’s music director, Brian Garman, is a talented conductor, whose work I have had many occasions to admire. This time I found the orchestra a tad coarse in tone and some of the wind and brass solos somewhat approximate in intonation. But all things considered, this Don Pasquale was a thoroughly enjoyable success, and certainly it boded well for the future careers of the singers who have the good fortune to participate in Kazaras’s excellent program.