Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne on Tour
Monday 10 October 2011
Donizetti wanted his late masterpiece ‘Don Pasquale - premiered in Paris in 1843 – to look bang up to date, and throughout its glittering afterlife directors have played fast and loose with its place and period.
Recent British productions include Covent Garden’s giant 18th century dolls’ house, Garsington’s in an elegant Twenties Parisian café, and Holland Park’s beside a Casa del Fish’n’Chips on a windswept promenade.
Conceiving this new version for Glyndebourne on Tour, the French director Mariame[sic] Clement was tempted to set it in the Eighties, with its power-dressed young heroine Norina exuding feminist can-do. But then she realised that ‘the loss of elegance would be too great’, so it went right back into the 18th century.
And as Julia Hansen’s three-sided set starts to revolve, elegant is the word. Each exquisitely-designed section is less a room than a world vividly stamped with its owner’s personality: crabby old Don Pasquale, his sulky young nephew Ernesto, and the vivacious young widow Norina, whom Ernesto despairingly loves, and whom Don Pasquale will unwisely marry. Mysteriously walking through walls from one room to another while the overture plays is Dr Malatesta, destined to change everyone’s life in ways they don’t dream of. Only as the drama unfolds do we understand that this staging device presages a reading of the opera which is crueller and more cynical than anything Donizetti had in mind – and I won’t spoil the fun by revealing how.
This is a very witty, sexy production with a brilliant performance at its heart: Jonathan Veira’s Don Pasquale is the quintessence of ‘buffo’, larger than life and utterly credible. Ainhoa Garmendia’s Norina radiates calculating mischief; Enea Scala’s Ernesto may be a recognisably mutinous adolescent, but his sound is the purest bel canto; Andrei Bondarenko’s Dr Malatesta communicates insinuating persuasiveness in a wonderfully rich and even baritone.
The coups de theatre come thick and fast, ranging from an unusually literal version of pigeon post, to conjuring tricks with furniture, to the transformation of Pasquale’s servants into a crowd of aristocratic dandies. Garmendia’s singing doesn’t quite match the beauty of Scala’s in their climactic duet, but she more than makes up for it through her compelling presence. Enrique Mazzola generates a high-octane performance in the pit. The show is on the road: catch it near you.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove