Although Donizetti’s Don Pasquale was first staged in 1843, it translates perfectly to this version set in 1960s Rome.
Don Pasquale may appear on the surface to be a miserly old curmudgeon, but underneath it all he seems to be a foolish and somewhat lonely old man. He disapproves of Norina, the poor widow that his nephew and heir, Ernesto, is planning to marry, and decides to take a bride himself and cut off Ernesto from his inheritance. Don Pasquale is excellently portrayed by Alfonso Antoniozzi, in his debut with Scottish Opera, as a cat-lover who instantly falls for the charms of a kitten-like young girl, fresh from a convent. However, he has no idea that the sweet Sofronia is actually the scheming Norina, and that he has been set up by his friend, Dr Malatesta, who also arranges a fake marriage ceremony.
Sofronia soon shows her claws and her true colours once she is the mistress of Pensione Pasquale, employing new staff and spending money on cars, clothes and jewels, much to Don Pasquale’s dismay. He finds on their wedding night that his new “wife” has an assignation with a lover, and is determined to catch them together. He eventually discovers that it has all been a trick, and Norina and Ernesto are re-united, with Don Pasquale’s blessing.
The production is full of gentle humour and pathos, with every member of the cast playing their part perfectly. Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson as Norina/Sofronia makes the transformation from flirty young widow, to meek and mild bride-to-be, and then to the domineering new wife, with ease, and is convincing in all of these portrayals .
The background and introduction to the story is cleverly portrayed with a film of a comic-book, the pages turning to introduce us to the characters, before the curtain lifts and we meet them on-stage in the somewhat run-down Pensione Pasquale. The single set is very effectively used to stage both indoor and outdoor scenes, and the 1960s décor and costumes also work well.
All in all, another great evening’s entertainment from Scottish Opera with outstanding vocals and music.
Review by Lisa Sibbald