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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Don Pasquale - comic opera in three acts
Norina…Eva Mei
Don Pasquale…Alessandro Corbelli
Ernesto…Antonino Siragusa
Dottor Malatesta…Roberto de Candia
Un Notaro…Giorgio Gatti
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Liricio, Cagliari/Gérard Korsten
Staged by the Teatro Comunale – Bologna
Recorded at the Teatro Comunale, Cagliari in February 2002
TDK DVD VIDEO DV-OPDP [121 mins: opera; 31 mins: special features]

 

This DVD is released concurrently with a CD set of the same production of Donizetti’s comic opera, utilising the same box-cover artwork. The audio-only set was reviewed earlier this month on this site by Robert McKechnie. The story is an old one: that of an old man trying to recapture his youth by marrying a much younger woman, and rueing his rashness when the girl turns from a shy shrinking violet, after they are "married", into a shrew that would put Shakespeare’s Kate in the shade. Of course, in the opera’s Commedia dell ‘arte-like story, Don Pasquale, is being served his just deserts for trying to quash the romance between his nephew Ernesto and the young widow Norina by the comic machinations of Dottor Malatesta. In fact, the producer, in the interesting ‘Behind the scenes’ feature admits that many of the gestures and asides have been culled from Harlequinade and Shakespearean sources plus nods towards the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin etc; it all adds up to a sparkling and enjoyable romp. Mock seriousness (and real tenderness) is nicely balanced by broad humour.

The fold-out sets are well contrived making intelligent and tasteful use of the stage and making scene changes seemingly effortless and time-saving. The crusty old bachelor’s pad is suitably fusty with floor to ceiling bookcases and busts of bald-headed classical figures. That is until the spoilt demands of Pasquale’s new "wife" softens it into a more delicate pastel powder-puff surrounding as she proceeds to spend, spend, spend the old man’s money. Act I Scene II is set rather oddly, in this production, on the sea-shore where Norina draped on a chaise-longue reads a knightly romance (‘Quel guardo il cavaliere’) adding that she too (as a young experienced widow) knows a wile or two about courtship (‘So anch’io la virtù magica’) Norina is sung knowingly by Eva Mei who’s middle register is ideally warm and strong. For me, she is the star of this production. Returning to the set design, the Act III servant’s chorus is nice piece of richly observed comic theatre: a busy setting in the downstairs kitchens replete with pots and pans and a long table stretching across the width of the stage with much coming and going. A wine waiter, for instance, dextrously charges across the stage balancing a high tower of wine glasses and the vignettes of the many characters are frozen at one point during a pregnant pause in the chorus.

The acting is first class, everybody relishing their roles, Alessandro Corbelli’s Pasquale, bumbling, pompous and outraged, Eva Mei’s Norina shrewish and petulant and full of good humour and Roberto de Candia, a knowing, hoodwinking Malatesta.

I have covered to some extent Eva Mei’s role, She sparkles throughout. It is a shame that her Act III duet (‘Tornami a dir che m’ami’) with Antonio Siragusa (as her lover and Pasquale’s nephew, Ernesto) seems to be poorly balanced in her favour (microphone placement/ recording problems?). Siragusa is generally good, reasonably ardent but his projection is sometimes weak. Roberto de Candia is nicely wily as the scheming Malatesta and his Act III presto tongue-twisting patter duet with Pasquale ‘Aspetta, aspetta, cara sposina’ well deserves the audience’s applause. Alessandro Corbelli generously fills out his title role, nicely expressing his portly character’s preening, and strutting, then being outraged, cuckolded and finally resigned and forgiving. I echo exactly what my colleague Robert McKechnie says when he comments, "Corbelli manages to invoke precisely what Donizetti intended to achieve: laughter at his folly and sympathy for his consequent predicament – a fine line that Corbelli treads faultlessly.

A visual delight, a sparkling production with fine comic performances from Mei, Corbelli and De Candia.

Ian Lace

This recording is also available as a CD - see review by Robert McKechnie

 

 



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