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

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Alessandro Corbelli as Don Pasquale [Photo by Clive Barda]
19 Jul 2013

Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s late comedy Don Pasquale debuted in Paris in 1843 and has been popular ever since. It was produced at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1938 but, rather surprisingly, Mariame Clement’s 2013 production, refreshingly set in the 18th century rather than being update, was the first festival production since 1938.

Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Alessandro Corbelli as Don Pasquale [Photo by Clive Barda]

 

Clement originally directed the opera for Glyndebourne on Tour in 2011. Now she and designer Julia Hansen have revived the production for the main festival with Alessandro Corbelli in the title role, Danielle de Niese as Norina and Nikolay Borchev making his Glyndebourne debut as Dr Malatesta. Alek Shrader, who was due to sing Ernesto, was ill and the role was sung by Enea Scala who had sung the role with Glyndebourne on Tour. Enrique Mazzola conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The whole production was based around a revolve, displaying three different rooms, 18th century interiors with quirky modern detailing, and during the overture we saw Nikolay Borchev's Malatesta walking through each. Don Pasquale (Alessandro Corbelli) was asleep on the settee in his drawing room, his housekeeper keeping watch, Ernesto (Enea Scala) was asleep in his bedroom and Norina (Danielle de Niese) asleep at her dressing table. In each of the rooms Borchev examined everything, establishing his character's highly manipulative and rather mysterious quality. Hansen's sets had a plain elegance about them, with the interiors very spare, but each was full of quirky detailing and as Borchev moved from room to room he did not always exit via the door.

There were other quirky details to the production. Don Pasquale's rejoicing at the idea of children in the first scene was indicated by his acquiring a toy rocking horse which he carried about with him. He had a single servant/housekeeper (Anna-Marie Sullivan) and when Malatesta appeared with 'Sofronia' the housekeeper clearly thought she recognised 'Sofronia' and Malatesta shut the housekeeper in the cupboard.

Corbelli was superb as Don Pasquale, comically touching in act one rather than being objectionable. His performance was character based, and though there was plenty of comic business, we were laughing at the character not his antics. He also sang the role, no buffo bluffing here. Borchev's Malatesta was smoothly manipulative and superbly sung. Borchev made himself be almost self-effacing at times but you were aware of the way the character was manipulating everyone. We were introduced to Enea Scala's Ernesto lying on his bed, in his underwear, reading and playing the guitar. Scala looked every inch the part, though there was a little hardness to his tone. Technically his singing encompassed everything needed, but there was a lack lyric flexibility to his voice which I think is needed here.

We were also introduced to Danielle de Niese's Norina in her underwear, and she was not reading a romantic novel she was writing one. This does rather have an effect on the character, making Norina more of a schemer and less a romantic, which is on a par with Clement's view of the opera. Norina remained in her underwear when Malatesta appeared and there was clearly more than a spark between them, in fact at the end of the act the two ended up in the bath together! This goes against the strict confines of the plot, but it does make a great deal of sense to the interactions in the opera.


Don Pasquale Trailer 2013 from Glyndebourne on Vimeo.

De Niese was a great delight as Norina, her runs sparkling and with plenty of character, here was a Norina who was full of personality and charm. De Niese brought this out in the music, Donizetti's roulades were purposeful and captivating, with only a hint of hardness at the very top of the voice. Norina is a part which seems to suit her and she displayed a warm, appealing, fully rounded character; a real charmer.

Act two opened with Don Pasquale getting wigged and powdered, ready for his new wife. The result looked a bit ridiculous, and called to mind a similar scene in Death in Venice. A nice contrast to Ernesto, here Scala was touching in his short scene. The long scene where Malatesta introduces 'Sofronia' and she marries Don Pasquale, with Ernesto as witness was full of physical comedy, but also musically considered as well.All in all great fun, as this should be. James Platt, a soloist from the Glyndebourne Chorus, was the bumbling notary.

Clement and Hansen's other change was to make the chorus into bewigged 18th century aristocratic onlookers rather than servants. Clad in white with white hair and white painted faces these gave a surreal feel to act three, particularly as Clement crammed them into the set at the opening of the act. And their performance of the servants chorus was quite superb.

Click here for Gyndebourne’s podcast on Don Pasquale.

For the final scene, the duet between Scala and de Niese took place in a Watteau-like setting surrounded by other couples from the chorus.

Scala gave us a finely sung serenade, being joined by De Niese in delightful fashion. But throughout the opera, Clement had highlighted not only Malatesta's manipulativeness but the slight odd relationship the character has with Norina. Clement turned this into a fully formed relationship which took place in the gaps between the rest of the action, something the singers did brilliantly. De Niese, as Norina, was superb at showing the rather scheming minx side of the character and the result made for a nicely rich confection which was still true to Donizetti's music. Borchev was superb as Malatesta, and sang the role with an easy fluency and fine sense of line. At the end, both De Niese and Borchev made it clear that, no matter the conventional ending, their two characters were clearly going to continue their relationship.

And of course, Corbelli's Don Pasquale was a complete delight throughout. A richly detailed character, Corbelli ensured that we felt sorry for the old fool. As I have said, this was also a beautifully sung performance. He and Borchev turned in a spectacular account of the famous patter duet.

Here I must turn to the conducting of Enrique Mazzola. From the first there was a rather hard brilliance to the sound he got from the orchestra, and there were too many moments which sounded rather driven. In fact Mazzola took the patter duet at quite a lick. Corbelli and Borchev coped supebly, but the result seemed over done. Mazzola got some finely brilliant playing from the orchestra but he seemed to push too much and there were too few moments when he allowed things to relax.

The production is being broadcast live in cinemas on 6 August 2013, further information from the Glyndebourne website.

Clement and Hansen brought a quirky brilliance as well as a nicely humanising touch to the production, reflecting the way Donizetti's music gives the stock characters a depth. Clement's twists to the plot did not quite give us the Don Pasquale Donizetti wrote, but they provided an imaginative commentary on it. Clement and her cast made us laugh with the characters, but to care for them as well. We were treated to some fine characterful singing, bringing Donizetti's music to life, if only Mazzola had relaxed a bit.

Robert Hugill


Cast and production information:

Alessandro Corbelli: Don Pasquale, Danielle de Niese: Norina; Enea Scala: Ernesto; James Platt: Notary, Anna-Marie Sullivan: Servant. Enrique Mazzola: Conductor. Mariame Clement: Director. Julia Hansen: Designer. Bernd Purkrabek: Lighting designer. London Philharmonic Orchestra. Glyndebourne Festival Opera. 18 July 2013.

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):