DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

Item: Pasqualeís handsome wood-paneled library folds into a box ó to
be trundled on and off at will. But on the side of the box is a grand baroque
window to overlook the garden serenade of the last scene, and that ornamental
window looks suspiciously like a jowly old man with bald pate, bulging eyes,
pork nose and gaping, furious mouth ó a pun on an ornamental style and on
the story of the piece.

Item: Part one concludes with ìSofronia,î fresh from her convent and
dressed in demure gray gown, bonnet and veil, usurping control of her new
ìhusbandísî home; Part two then begins with the remodeled home full of
rushing servants under the cold stare of that severe veiled figure ó but
itís a trick; itís only the costume on a dressmakerís dummy, soon
replaced by ìSofroniaî herself in rather gayer attire.

Item: As ìSofronia,î now Norina, sings her last delicious waltz, a
befuddled Pasquale sits alone, sadly isolated with ìSofroniaísî
twinkling shawl ó but Norina, with a kiss, and Ernesto, with an embracing
arm, coax him to accept his defeat.

In short, the directorís ìbusinessî and the designersí jokes take
delicious advantage of opportunities found in the ancient story itself, but
never push them beyond the bounds of wit or taste.

Ferruccio Furlanetto is the unsophisticated old rogue who learns a lesson;
he sounds woolly and day-dreamy and fine, playing the unsophisticated
aspirant rouÈ who is in fact too shy to speak to a strange girl, though his
delivery of the patter could be quicker. Nuccia Focile, whose soprano is
gratefully, sensuously darker than the chirp of such classic Norinas as Grist
and Sciutti, has no problem with the coloratura of ìSo anchíio la virtu
magica,î but comes into her own in ìTornami a dir.î Her slimness and
agility and very Italian features donít hurt, and in her talent and vocal
quality and care for the style she is, I think, the best candidate among
young Italian sopranos for the mantle of Mirella Freni. Gregory Kunde gives
Ernestoís music an endearing bloom with fine arching phrases, and he makes
a stalwart figure ó for once our tenor is not a cipher. Lucio Gallo
connives but does not distract as the doctor, whose plot is ó well ó the
plot of the opera. Riccardo Muti, famous for following the score to the
letter, seems to have noticed that Donizetti intended his last comic opera to
sparkle; sparkle it does.

John Yohalem

image_description=Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale
product_title=Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale
product_by=Ferruccio Furlanetto, Nuccia Focile, Gregory Kunde, Lucio Gallo, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti (cond.). Production by Stefano Vizioli. Directed for TV and video by Patrizia Carmine.
product_id=TDK DVWW-OPDPSC [DVD]