IF THE director-designer duo Renaud Doucet and Andre Barbe were setting out to prove that Donizetti’s Don Pasquale deserves higher status within his operatic output, they have succeeded big time.
Scottish Opera: Don Pasquale
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
* * * *
For in this new production for Scottish Opera, which updates the action to 1960s Technicolor Rome and adds a quirky Italian “fotoromanzo” comic magazine slant to the characters and set, there is never a moment when the visual stimulus is not perfectly in tune with Donizetti’s score.
It’s all about detail, and not just in such obvious things as the sharp, tantalisingly deep perspectives of the cluttered streets, or the picture book madness of the miserly Pasquale’s rundown “pensione”, and the ingenious use of washing lines to shift the focus of action.
Doucet and Barbe go beyond that, ensuring that every aspect of a character’s movement or expression mirrors, at every turn, the musical clues. In that sense, they have created a form of “Gesamkunstwerk” – a holistic tour de force that is both spectacular and, behind the comedy, genuinely moving.
Despite the squalid old Pasquale we first meet – brilliantly portrayed by a larger than life Alfonso Antoniozzi – we eventually warm to his remorse.
Aldo di Toro’s Ernesto has soft, soaring passion. Nicholas Lester is subtly scheming as Malatesta. Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson cuts a convincingly conniving Norina, though an edge to her voice let the vocal highs down. Francesco Corti conducts vigorously, though the orchestra is too loud at times.
And there’s a cat thing going on, but I won’t spoil the fun.