Complex Pasquale

3 Nov

Glyndebourne has a wonderful policy of charging £10 for children’s tickets to some performances of its tour. This year it was Don Pasquale and, again, I took my eleven-year old niece to see it on 28th October.  It’s always interesting to try to imagine how the person next to you is seeing it and to watch the reaction.

I became aware first that, for all that it’s a comedy, Don Pasquale isn’t as easy an opera for an 11 year old to follow as Traviata and, second, that Mariame Clément’s sophisticated production here actually complicates the opera, possibly unnecessarily. My niece was puzzled by the relationships and the fact that Malatesta and Norina appeared to be sharing a bath at the end of scene two didn’t make it easier. Although Malatesta and Norina didn’t actually run off together at the end as they used to, there was still a very definite chemistry between them. I don’t think Donizetti necessarily had that in mind and I tend to think that this opera is quite nasty enough without adding that complication. Similarly, I’m not sure that having the chorus as an eighteenth century audience – glorious though it looks – necessarily helps you understand what’s going on. It’s a clever, interesting one-off version of the piece, but I don’t think I want to see it again.  Having said that, I think my niece enjoyed it and liked the music.

It was well rehearsed by Paul Higgins and had a cracking cast. The discovery for me was José Fardilha as Pasquale. Here is a gentle, dry ideal buffo voice who handles the words with confidence, ideal style. And he can act. He gives Corbelli and Pratico as serious run for their money and I’d love to see him do more of this sort of repertory.

Eliana Pretorian made a strong, rather nasty Norina singing with great style and accuracy – again, a very promising performance in this repertory. Tuomas Katajala made a very nice Ernesto – a nice, reedy tone that works really well in this role and he acted engagingly. John Brancy also has a very strong, baritone and good presence for Malatesta. He’d be a very could Count in Figaro or Don Giovanni. They made a strong ensemble, voices blending well and with nice alert, convincing performances.

Duncan Ward conducted. I found his overture a bit cautious – lacking the speed and exhilarating fizz that it ought to have. After that, he struck me as conducting considerately to his singers, with nice style. It was a promising debut. The orchestra was very decent indeed and the chorus a great deal better than that.

A good quality evening and I enjoyed hearing one of my favourite operas again even if I think that the Clément production can probably be retired.

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