Gaetano Maria Donizetti (1797-1848)
|Stage Director : Daniel Slater
Choir of the Grand Théâtre de Genève
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Conductor : Evelino Pidò
A night at the opera, with a comic jewel in the great tradition of the Neapolitan opera buffa: Donizetti’s elegant take on the genre, with the verve of baritone Simone Alaimo and the virtuosity of soprano Patrizia Ciofi. Close to sixty, wealthy fuddy-duddy Don Pasquale is maddened by the idea that when he dies, all his worldly goods will go to his nephew Ernesto, whom he regards as a simpleton: hasn’t the young man fallen for Norina, charming but without a penny to her name? So Don Pasquale decides to get married himself, and produce deserving heirs.
Doctor Malatesta, a family friend, introduces him to his sister, Sofronia: submissive, virtuous and hardworking, she seems to be just what Don Pasquale wants. Alas, after the wedding, the new wife turns into an insufferable shrew – and a flighty spendthrift into the bargain. An ageing buffoon A comic masterpiece, Don Pasquale stands out as the final flowering of the Neapolitan opera buffa from which Donizetti borrowed his characters: the old fool, the saucy soubrette, the “Dr Headache” who always chips in at the wrong moment, and the thwarted lovers who finally have their way.
Yet here the composer also adds in all his elegance and subtlety, giving his main character a depth reminiscent of the novels of Balzac. In collusion with Ernesto and Malatesta, Norina, in disguise, has decided to teach the old fool a lesson; but after two acts of torture inflicted by his termagant of a bride, Don Pasquale, scorned and stripped of his illusions, provokes not laughter but emotion. Here the role is played by baritone Simone Alaimo, that master of Italian lightness, with Patrizia Ciofi as the mischievous Norina.
When he composed his opera in 1843, Donizetti, then aged forty-six, was in dire personal straits: ill and soon to become paralysed, he had lost his wife, parents and three of his children to a cholera epidemic. How he found the strength to write this wittily exhilarating gem is the great mystery of a work that remains enormously popular on stages around the world.