Argentina Donizetti, Don Pasquale: Soloists and Orchestra of Teatro Colón / Srba Dinic (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 1.10.2019. (JSJ)
Direction – Fabio Sparvoli
Sets/lighting – Enrique Bordolini
Costumes – Imme Möller
Chorus master – Miguel Martínez
Don Pasquale – Nicola Ulivieri
Norina – Jaquelina Livieri
Ernesto – Santiago Ballerini
Doctor Malatesta – Darío Solari
Notary – Mario de Salvo
Donizetti’s last buffa opera, Don Pasquale completed towards the end of his composing career and considered a likely failure during rehearsals, has become one of his best-known works.
The storyline, of a wealthy elderly man determined to marry a much younger lady who already has a beau, with all the intrigues that go on to prevent it, is a familiar one in opera. Donizetti’s work was based on the libretto of Pavesi’s earlier now – all but unknown – Ser Mercantonio and it is found in Rossini’s Barber of Seville among others. Although made for buffa, that doesn’t happen by itself. And that was the problem with this production: it just didn’t quite take off.
But let’s start with the essentials of bel canto, the singing, and particularly Jaquelina Livieri’s Norina, which was the highlight of the production. Sung with power and brilliance and acting to match, she perfectly transformed from the shy ‘ex convent girl’ to the free spending, domineering ‘wife’.
Not far behind, Santiago Ballerini’s Ernesto was sung with style and smoothness, particularly in his second act ‘Cercheró lontana terra’ and ‘Com’é gentil’.
In the title role Nicola Ulivieri had a good presence although rather than an elderly in decline he was more of a sprightly middle age, rather weakening the storyline. Moreover, neither he, nor Uruguayan Darío Solari as the scheming doctor Maltesta, sufficiently brought out their respective characters, so the thread of humour that should run throughout the work was lacking.
A special word however, for their flawless ‘Cheti, cheti immantinente’ of which ‘Aspetta, aspetta’ was given a reprise to the delight of the house.
Mario de Salvo completed the cast as the bundling notary.
The scenery was a basic modernistic structure which was functional but characterless, and the costumes a mixed bag without any apparent uniformity.
On the podium Serbian conductor Srba Dinic presented a correct reading of the score and the chorus on form in their limited interventions.
In short, a production that will be remembered for its vocal rather than its visual aspects.
Jonathan Spencer Jones
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