First Performance: 3 January 1843 at Théâtre
Don Pasquale, an elderly bachelor
Dr. Malatesta, his physician
Ernesto, his nephew
Norina (Sofronia), a youthful widow and Ernesto’s beloved
A Notary, Malatesta’s cousin, Carlino
Time and Place: Mid-19th Century Rome at Don Pasquale’s villa and adjacent garden.
Don Pasquale is an elderly and rich landowner. His nephew, Ernesto, will
be his heir, if he marries a woman chosen by Don Pasquale. But Ernesto loves Norina, a
young, attractive and vivacious widow, who is anything but rich. Ernesto refuses to obey
to his uncle, who decides to disinherit him and to find a wife for himself so that he
may sire an heir. Doctor Malatesta, Don Pasquale's friend, devises a plan to help the
two young people. He suggests to Don Pasquale his sister, Sofronia, as a wife,
expounding upon her dowry. Don Pasquale is elated and immediately ejects Ernesto from
his house. Meanwhile, Malatesta instructs Norina to impersonate Sofronia and to marry
Don Pasquale in a mock wedding ceremony. She is then to turn into a virago, thereby
reducing Don Pasquale to desperation.
Ernesto, unaware of the plan of Malatesta, is desperate. He resolves to
leave for foreign parts. Malatesta and Norina (wearing a veil to disguise herself as
Sofronia) arrive. Don Pasquale is immediately enamored, which only increases when she
lifts the veil. They sign a marriage contract before Malatesta's cousin posing as a
notary. The agreement gives her half of Don Pasquale's possessions. Ernesto arrives and
is appalled; but, Malatesta draws him aside and explains things. Sofronia, until then
timid and docile, changes her behavior. She becomes arrogant and temperamental; and, she
orders extravagant expenditures that terrorize Don Pasquale.
Sofronia increases her tantrums. When she slaps Don Pasquale, he demands
a divorce. She then connives to make him believe she has a lover. Exasperated, Don
Pasquale asks Malatesta to help him. Malatesta puts his scheme to Ernesto, who is to
pose as the lover of Sofronia. That evening in Don Pasquale's garden, Ernesto arrives
and sings a serenade to Sofronia. They then both sing a love duet. Seeing this from a
distance, Don Pasquale erupts. At the suggestion of Malatesta, he declares that Ernesto
will marry Norina, who will thereupon become the mistress of the household. Don Pasquale
is convinced by Malatesta that this will result in Sofronia leaving his household. At
this point, the plot is revealed. Relieved that he is not married to the diabolical
Sofronia, Don Pasquale forgives all and consents to the marriage of Ernesto and Norina.
Click here for the complete libretto.