Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anna Netrebko as Norina and Matthew Polenzani as Ernesto [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
08 Feb 2011

Don Pasquale, New York

Witty and airy as an after-dinner anecdote over biscuits and cognac, Don Pasquale (1844) is, unlikely as it may seem, almost the last opera Donizetti completed before his descent into the madness of tertiary syphilis.

G. Donizetti: Don Pasquale

Norina: Anna Netrebko; Don Pasquale: John Del Carlo; Ernesto: Barry Banks; Dr. Malatesta: Mariusz Kwiecien. Metropolitan Opera, chorus and orchestra, conducted by James Levine. Performance of February 4.

Above: Anna Netrebko as Norina and Matthew Polenzani as Ernesto

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera

 

He was 47, managing opera houses in Vienna and Paris, introducing new talents like Verdi, and could still turn out melodies to beat the band—so to speak—with ever more of a nod to tight scripts and psychological subtleties. With Rossini in retirement, Bellini dead, Verdi a tyro and Mercadante about to withdraw into academe, Donizetti was the most popular Italian composer in the world. Who knows where this would have led him had his career gone on (as Verdi’s, Mercadante’s, Pacini’s, Meyerbeer’s, Auber’s all did) till he was 65? Would he have composed operas for St. Petersburg, Berlin, London and New York? Can we doubt it?

Given the proper performers (Donizetti’s operas, even more than most, depend on the performer to put them over), Don Pasquale remains almost irresistible. The Met has had great success with Otto Schenk’s moderately updated production (O’Hearn-Merrill’s was better, funnier, lighter), and it is clear from last Friday’s performance that the touch-ups required for last fall’s HDTV movie theater broadcast have made it more stage-ready than ever. James Levine, in the pit, seemed especially to enjoy himself but the entire cast is infectiously frolicsome.

I had quibbles, however, with some of the singers: all good, but some a little graceless in their approach to this pearl-icing confection. Anna Netrebko is a prima donna, and her voice has gotten steadily larger and thicker while losing a top note or two. This makes her a good candidate for Anna Bolena, for example, a Donizetti role she is singing in its Met premiere next season, and even likelier as Bellini’s Sonnambula or Giulietta, in both of which roles she has been broadcast from Vienna. But the voice’s thickness, its inability to lighten up, is uncomfortable in a Norina. The lady must be laughing all the time, or we are disinclined to forgive her rather calculated assault on the wealth of the title character. Reri Grist, my first Met Norina, floated about the stage, almost pirouetting around a lovably flummoxed Fernando Corena, and the instant of her slap, the moment when she goes too far and knows it, was an instant transformation not merely in the music but in her attitude, as she pulled her hands to her cheeks in horror at what she’d done, and a genuine personality was displayed—as also affection for the old man. Netrebko can no longer manage that lightness, that speediness, and she cannot manage the top notes of her runs, which rise prettily only to stop short every time. (What is that note? D? She hasn’t even got a D?) The glittering final waltz did not glitter or twirl; Netrebko offered it … dutifully. Ljuba Petrova, who sang one performance of the opera here during the present production’s first season, was rather more what we are looking for: Not a dramatic prima donna but an old-fashioned canary coloratura whose charm and wit match her voice. And she had all the high notes!

PASQUALE_Don_Carlo_and_Netr.gifJohn Del Carlo as the title role and Anna Netrebko as Norina

Ernesto was sung by Barry Banks, whose voice has also changed over the years, from the spectacular instrument of the Flute/Thisbe in the Met’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and the heroic Oreste in Ermione that amazed New York. His legato line no longer flows comfortably; it is a tolerable but charmless substitute for the proper tenor elegance.

Buffo basses can get by for years with far less voice than John Del Carlo still possesses. He wittily deploys his great height and bulk and mugs in the very finest fettle. You can’t have Don Pasquale without a Pasquale, and the Met is right to hang on to this one.

The star of the show for dapper farce-performance, suave vocalism and bring-down-the-house sex appeal was Mariusz Kwiecien as Dr. Malatesta. There is nothing to object to in his singing (he doesn’t scream in this opera, as he tends to in Lucia or L’Italiana) or his scampering or his appeal, except that this is Dr. Malatesta and the opera is called Don Pasquale and the lovers are Ernesto and Norina. Why is the doctor the one we wait for, listen to, watch on stage? Most Malatestas “feed” their Norinas (without picking them up and tossing them about like throw pillows), accompany their Pasquales, take a line in the concerted passages. The character is a catalyst, not the focus of the opera, but Otto Schenk has got nothing so wrong as building this character up. If Malatesta is the center of attention, and has such a rich relationship with Norina … why do we need the tenor at all? He fades into the woodwork if Malatesta does not.

PASQUALE_Kwecien_and_Don_Ca.gifMariusz Kwiecien as Dr. Malatesta and John Del Carlo in the title role

But all these objections seemed to occur to few others in the audience last Friday, who all seemed to be tickled that they were having such fun, enjoying such a sparkling score in such an animated, Broadway-worthy performance, without having to drop a tear or think a thought at all. And isn’t that the sort of pleasure farce is supposed to provide?

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):