Don Pasquale – Donizetti – Dusseldorf Opera Germany
Donizetti’s opera buffa Don Pasquale opened in Paris in 1843, with a libretto mainly by Giovanni Ruffini, as well as the Composer himself. There have been many recordings of this opera, particularly more recently under the batons of Muti, Abbado, Santi and Levine, with artists such as Freni, Nucci, Bruson, Kunde, Raimondi, Florez and Netrebko taking the lead roles.
However, in this particular production, directed by Rolando Villazon and conducted by Antonino Fogliani, it perhaps would be an understatement to say the quality of the singing was not at the level of the recordings. Perhaps the production was somewhat to blame for this and the Opera House only being half full.
Villazon’s sets looked pretty, with beautiful paintings by famous artists adorning the stage, but then the Director’s vision goes madly wild. He introduces a robber appearing in a diver’s one piece suit with a mask and goggles that act as a torch with flashing lights. This robber is constantly floating down from the ceiling to the stage and even though this is opera buffa, it is actually less buffa and more buffet, as he seems to capture food rather than valuable art! It really didn’t work and neither did other Villazon additions.
The open stage and backstage had no ceiling. Therefore, the voices disappeared into the rafters and were not projected into the auditorium unless the singers were standing right at the front of the stage. Thus the singing overall did not impose itself on the evening’s entertainment.
The Don Pasquale of Paolo Bordogna had a small voice with a lack of projection into the auditorium, albeit with amusing buffa throughout. His Norina – the soprano Luiza Fatyol – projected well, particularly with her rather pinched top, but without real substance lower down in her voice. Even her ‘Basic Instinct’ moment with her legs spread apart became somewhat of an embarrassment!
The Ernesto of the young Ibrahim Yesilay sung with an Italian tone, but as he strained he tended to lose focus on the accuracy of his notes.
The acting overall, particularly from the Doktor Malatesta of Richard Sveda, as well as the downtrodden maid, was really entertaining.
The music was controlled by the Italian Conductor, Antonino Fogliani, who sang each note and knew the score well enough to acknowledge my applause at the outstanding pace of the opening overture.
There were too few people in the auditorium, which cannot just be because of the mediocrity of the evening’s entertainment. A shame for all involved. This Opera House deserves to be supported.