[Met Performance] CID:351478
New Production
Don Pasquale {116} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/31/2006.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 31, 2006

New Production


Don Pasquale............Simone Alaimo
Norina..................Anna Netrebko
Ernesto.................Juan Diego Flórez, Acts I, II
Ernesto.................Barry Banks, Act III
Dr. Malatesta...........Mariusz Kwiecien
Notary..................Anthony Laciura

Conductor...............Maurizio Benini

Production..............Otto Schenk
Designer................Rolf Langenfass
Lighting designer.......Duane Schuler

Production a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund.

Don Pasquale received nine performances this season.

Costume designs for Don Pasquale by Rolf Langenfass.

Production photos of Don Pasquale by Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Judith Malafronte in the June 2006 issue of OPERA NEWS

Otto Schenk offers his last staging at the Metropolitan Opera - a broadly comic, slightly jaded look at "Don Pasquale," with a "wow" cast.

Otto Schenk's latest Met production - announced as his last staging for the house - is a broadly comic, slightly jaded look at Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," an opera not seen at the Met since 1980. Written in 1843 for soprano Giulia Grisi, tenor Giovanni Mario, baritone Antonio Tamburini and bass Luigi Lablache - the most famous singers of their day - the work still provides four star performers with ample opportunity for vocal display and musical characterization; the Met's "wow" factor was the pairing of soprano bombshell Anna Netrebko with glamorous Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez to headline a strong bel canto cast.

Physically, the boyish, stiff Flórez is no match for the overpoweringly gorgeous and charismatic Netrebko, and the highly anticipated vocal sparks didn't quite materialize at the production's first performance (March 31). Flórez sounded unnaturally nasal on [first] night and was replaced (due to an announced allergic reaction) in Act III by Barry Banks. Banks is a consummate Italianate stylist, and he stepped into the serenade "Com'è gentil" with real vocal and musical command. The ensuing duet, "Tornami a dir che m'ami," found Netrebko and Banks totally in sync, sculpting the close, undulating phrases with grace and well-matched tonal beauty.

Rolf Langenfass's set features the huge ground-floor vestibule of Pasquale's Roman palazzo, dominated by a massive curved staircase (which the aging Pasquale avoids, having moved his bedroom set downstairs). Peeling paint, propped-up beams, a broken chandelier and scattered debris indicate that the staff has fallen behind on their housekeeping, and Pasquale's personal disarray --- unshaven, uncombed and shabbily dressed --- signals the existential crisis that becomes the basis of the flimsy plot. The old man wants a young wife, and the other characters decide to provide him with one who will drive him crazy by the end of the day.

The girl of choice, the ebullient young widow Norina, lives in a sunny rooftop apartment, where she sunbathes in a lounge chair, reading trashy medieval romance novels while lazily scratching one shapely white leg with the other foot. Netrebko dismissed any notions of Norina as a ditsy, chirpy soubrette with her blazing vocalism and immense personal magnetism; from the get-go, this Norina was way ahead of the male plotters, and Netrebko's dancing, prancing and somersaulting filled the stage with infectious enthusiasm, as her huge, dark sound and lustrous high notes filled the house.

Schenk has crammed every moment with sight gags, movement and physical humor, some gratuitous (Malatesta shows he is a real doctor by using a stethoscope on Pasquale during "Bella siccome un angelo"), some silly (the chorus of servants bustles around after Norina takes charge of the household but never actually
spruces up the house).

In the pit, Maurizio Benini led with assurance and generosity. bringing nice details to the fore without losing the big picture. Simone Alaimo offered sonorous voice and fine linguistic detail in the title role, and the elegant-voiced Mariusz Kwiecien proved a surprisingly versatile comic actor as Doctor Malatesta. Their scenes together, especially the rollicking "Aspetta, aspetta, cara sposina," were delicious.

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