Don Pasquale, Opera by G. Donizetti
Considered by many to be the last great opera buffa, Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is the perfect farce, as popular today as when it was first performed in the mid-nineteenth century.
Don Pasquale, a cantankerous but very wealthy old man, believes he has devised a failsafe plan to disinherit his undeserving nephew, Ernesto: he will take a wife for himself and father his own child whom he can leave his estate to. Dr Malatesta, although Don Pasquale’s friend, comes up with a scheme with Ernesto’s lover, Norina, to embarrass Pasquale so that she and Ernesto can be married to each other: she will become the bride that Pasquale has entreated Malatesta to find for him.
Their deception is only the beginning of this very sensitive comedy which sees an increasingly exasperated Pasquale come close to his wits’ end as his new wife switches from playing an innocent girl from the country to become an insufferable flirtatious tease, spending Pasquale’s money with abandon while denying him the happiness he craves.
Don Pasquale is perhaps the final fully-wrought work by any composer based on the centuries-old tradition of commedia dell’arte. What makes Don Pasquale stand out is the way in which Donizetti so skilfully adapts that art form's one-dimensional characters to create believable rounded personalities. No more is this true than in the role of Pasquale himself as we at first recoil from the selfishness of the man to end up sympathising with his plight.
Premiered at the Salle Ventadour in Paris, home to the city’s Théâtre-Italien, on 3 January 1843, Don Pasquale is ready to entertain audiences once again at the Vienna State Opera.