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Don Pasquale was Gaetano Donizetti’s 63rd opera and the last time it was produced by the Canadian Opera Company was a hefty thirty years ago. It is hoped that no one has had to wait that long to see this bouquet of melodies and comic business. It is paired this year with the heavy-duty Medea by Luigi Cherubini and no one can complain about the choices.
Don Pasquale inundates us with gorgeous melodies, a funny if thin plot and the COC’s production is a delight. The plot is as old and wonderful as comedy. Don Pasquale (Misha Kirla) is usually a rich old man but in this production is the owner of a small pensione in 1960s Rome. He wants to marry Norina (Simone Osborne), a young and pretty widow who happens to be also smart and spirited. She is in love with Ernesto (Santiago Ballerini), the nephew of Don Pasquale. We need someone to get things moving and that happens to be Dr. Malatesta (Joshua Hopkins) who arranges the marriage of his “sister” (Norina really) to Don Pasquale to be officiated by a Notary (Alex Halliday) who may be no notary at all.
All the players are in place and the plot must move to get rid of the old fool and restore the young lovers to “happily ever after” and I hope I am not disclosing too much of the plot.
Andre Barbe and Renaud Doucet from Montreal are credited with stage direction, dramaturgy, sets and costumes. That’s all the COC program discloses. André Barbe does costumes and set designs while Renaud Doucet does stage direction and choreography. This production does not need choreography but it does get some dramaturgy and I suppose we can guess who did it.
Don Pasquale requires a bass, a baritone, a tenor and a soprano with good voices to deliver the gorgeous melodies, obviously, but also singers with a comic sense to bring out the laughs inherent in the plot. Don Pasquale must do well vocally and comically and in Misha Kirla the COC has found an outstanding singer/actor. Kirla is a baritone in a role that is usually sung by a bass. He is a big man especially compared to Ballerini and Osborne and made them look almost tiny.
Soprano Osborne is a small woman but proved to be spitfire on occasion but she has a relatively small voice and she was overwhelmed by the bigger-voiced men around her. At times I found her unsatisfactory but she gave a spirited performance and showed spunk.
Ballerini as Ernesto was energetic and vocally spirited as the young man who wants to save his love and defeat his uncle who has a double-barreled gun pointed at him, he wants to deprive his nephew of his love and his livelihood by throwing him out.
Josua Hopkins as Malatesta is an ambivalent comic character who tricks his friend Pasquale into marrying his sister (a lie) by a Notary who is not a notary. Norina knows how to make Pasquale regret he ever married her in a well done and hilarious scene.
Barbe and Doucet, as indicated, made Pasquale the owner of a pensione and thus allowed the chorus to be used as his tenants. It also facilitated the look of the set with several floors of windows towering over the main part of the set which contained Pasquale’s living quarters. What looked like sheets hanging on a clothesline were lowered as the backdrop for the scene in the park and then changed for the scene with Malatesta and Norine.
Don Pasquale with its reliance on the eternal comic plot of the young outwitting the old for love and security and its shameless copying of commedia dell’arte characters suffused with the splendid music of Donizetti is a sheer delight and we should not have to wait thirty years to see another production.
Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti opened on April 26 and will be performed a total of eight times until May 14, 2024, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario.

Misha Kiria as Don Pasquale and Joshua Hopkins as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, COC 2024. Photo: Michael Cooper

May 10, 2024
Cultural - Κριτική Καλών Τεχνών

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