Don Pasquale, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, November 2010

Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale shows the folly of a wealthy old bachelor marrying a pretty young wife, but some people never learn. Here the old fellow wants to do it partly to disinherit his nephew, and expel him from the house, because he doesn’t approve of the young man’s marrying a charming widow named Norina. He gets his come-uppance through the cunning of his ‘friend’ Dr. Malatesta, and what a come-uppance it is!

John Del Carlo as Don Pasquale, all photos by Marty Sohl

There are just four principals: the old fellow Don Pasquale, his nephew Ernesto, Dr. Malatesta, and Norina, sung by John Del Carlo, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecien, and Anna Netrebko, in that order, and they worked superbly together. There was electricity aplenty, and that marvellous Act 3 duet between Kwiecien and Del Carlo was carried off with wonderful speed and sparkle. But it wasn’t necessary to wait until then for the fireworks because Kwiecien had superb chemistry with Netrebko, starting from their first interaction in Act 1, which was sprightly and witty from start to finish. She was a delight to watch; her suppressed energy as a veiled convent girl when first introduced to Pasquale, followed by her charming ballet steps when she unveils and moves closer to him, belied her swift transformation into a termagant. But it’s all play-acting of course, and this production by Otto Schenk gave ample scope for fun. Del Carlo was wonderfully expressive as Pasquale, evincing our sympathy for this comical buffoon, and Matthew Polenzani gave a beautiful rendering of Ernesto’s Act 2 lament.

Polenzani, Netrebko and Kwiecien

With flawless singing from all four principals, and a wonderfully emotional rendering of Donizetti’s score from James Levine in the orchestra pit, this performance was terrific. Sets and costumes by Rolf Langenfass gave the right sense of genteel dowdiness to Don Pasquale and his household furnishings, yet a brightness and cheeriness to the other three characters.

Whoever did the subtitles had the wit to use a bit of Cockney rhyming slang in the phrase ‘trouble and strife’ towards the end, when Norina refers to the perils of a wife. That is not the only bit of London in this opera, because the author of the original story was born in Westminster in 1572. This was Ben Johnson whose play The Silent Woman was taken up by Angelo Anelli for Stefano Pavesi’s opera Ser Mercantonio, and that in turn led to the libretto by Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffini for this delightful opera.

Johnson’s play was also the basis for Richard Strauss’s opera Die Schweigsame Frau, and I’d love to see the Met do that live in HD — any chance?

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4 Responses to “Don Pasquale, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, November 2010”

  1. John Says:

    Great review, Mark. I caught it at a theater in Ithaca, NY with some friends and we all thought it the best Don Pasquale we’d ever seen.

    The Act III Cheti Cheti sequence between the Don and the Doctor was a show stopper, literally. I can’t imagine how anyone’s tongue could be trained to follow such a score? It rolled off theirs magically, brought down the curtain, and the house roared. Today’s encore was a first for the Met’s HD series, I think.

    I totally agree that the Met orchestra came through big time. Unlike Wednesday’s opening (when he took ill with stomach flu and bowed out at intermission), Jimmie conducted the entire performance this afternoon, using his cane for the first time on camera, and on stage during the curtain calls. This guy is a first class trooper and such a talented conductor.

    The camera work during the overture by the way was I thought outstanding. I don’t care if you were there in person occupying Row A Center Orchestra seats, you would not have seen the close up and personal portraits of the orchestra members as they performed the overture. It was a treat all by itself.

  2. markronan Says:

    Good point about the camera work during the overture, John. I quite agree, and yes the audience applauded in London too for that wonderful rapid fire duet in Act III.

  3. gordie Says:

    It was an awesome experience in our small town theater. Such a gem of an opera; Netrebko was amazing; the production from start to finish was just about perfect. The love duet in the final act was elegant – – brought tears to my eyes. BRAVO to all concerned with this series.

  4. Florin Says:

    Hello,

    Last Saturday, November 13, those who love opera had the opportunity to see in a local cinema Don Pasquale, broadcasted live in HD from New York. If you had the chance to see it, you are now being invited to participate in a study about this experience. Please, take 20 minutes of your time and let us know how was it. Just go to: http://www.digitalvaluelab.com

    My name is Florin, I am a Doctoral student in Toronto, Canada. I wish to know your thoughts and feelings, and to learn about the reasons you attend this kind of event, about the kind of experience you are having while attending a music concert, opera, theatre, ballet or else.

    I am grateful for your willingness to participate in this study, where I work with colleagues at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and University of Innsbruck in Austria. I hope to hear from you. Thanks!

    Florin

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