Scottish Opera’s Don Pasquale
It seems unfair to compare Scottish Opera’s recent staging of Don Pasquale to the Met’s production—usually considered the yardstick by which all Don Pasquale productions are measured—not merely due to the gulf in both the quality and size of the cast, but because much of this new production’s charm comes from its modern reimagining. While the classic story remains the same, it is set in 60s Rome, and a backstory is woven regarding Pasquale’s love of cats, despite an allergy to them. The set is cluttered with ornaments of cats, and Sofronia’s hair subtly sticks up like a cat’s would when she meets for the first time to woo him. In the final scene Sofronia presents him with a particularly feline-looking dog.
Set Designer Andre Barbe creates a wonderfully abstract and understated set of a small Italian pensione, using lines of drying sheets and clothes to transform the minimal staging. The staging is itself played with—a maid struggles to pull down a rope to move the clothes, revealing the setting of the next scene, and comic strip-style speech and thought-bubbles drop down in one scene.
The performance of the cast was decidedly average, other than that of Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson (known mostly for playing Zerlina in the Scottish Opera production of Don Giovanni last season), whose Norina was spectacular. She’s no Netrebko, but her performance was without fault, and I hope to see her appear in more. The rest of the cast was decent, and while it’s hard to offer much real critism (Pasquale and Malatesta’s mosso mid-third act aria Aspetta aspetta was disappointing, but not entirely unexpectedly so—it’s somewhat known for its difficulty), it largely lacked a certain energy. The acting, at times, was a little hammy, but it seemed to fit the opera. Of all the Don Pasquale productions I’ve seen, this is by far the most unabashedly comic—the music from the garden serenade Com’e gentil appears to come from a turntable on Ernesto’s bicycle, and is interrupted by a shoe thrown by an irate resident, presumably awoken by the noise. Francesco Corti, returning to conduct after Emmanuel Joel-Hornak’s departure at the end the Company’s last season, performed wonderfully. the music was fresh and largely well-organised, if at times a touch loud.
Widely advertised and anticipated, this revival was a certain success for Scottish Opera, and I’m glad they seem to have gotten over their major worries. The debut performance (24th Jan.) was more-or-less sold out, with a healthy queue at the day tickets desk.
Scottish Opera’s next production is a revival of Sir David McVicar’s Madama Butterfly by Puccini. The Glasgow premiere is on the 21st May, 2014.
Scottish Opera’s Don Pasquale .
Alfonso Antoniozzi — Don Pasquale
Aldo Di Toro — Ernesto
Ruth Jenkins-R obertsson — Norina / Sofronia
Director: Renaud Doucet
Conductor: Francesco Corti
Designer: Andre Barbe