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

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

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):