Sunday, August 25, 2013
Watch 'Don Pasquale' from Glyndebourne
It's a wet Sunday and - while not denigrating what I'm sure will be a fabulous Prom tonight - some of us have already seen Parsifal three times this year. So it's time for something cheery. The visually gorgeous, emotionally sophisticated production from Glyndebourne of Donizetti's Don Pasquale is just the ticket. Directed by Mariame Clément with designs by Julia Hansen, it plumps this masterpiece of bel canto tragicomedy into the heart of a world none too far from Dangerous Liaisons.
It does so by asking one vital question about the drama's essence: why is Dr Malatesta doing this? What's in it for him? Answer: he has a thing going with la bella Norina. Could it be that he's out to trick poor old Pasquale so that Norina can marry the sweet, wimpy Ernesto, be comfortably off and assure her future on the side with Malatesta, an arrangement which appears to suit both of them rather well?
Danielle de Niese stars as an irrepressible and satisfyingly complex Norina, kind-hearted yet determined, caring about Ernesto yet in sexual thrall to Malatesta. Vocally she is strong and colourful, infusing each whirl of coloratura with expressive purpose. Here, in the Independent the other week, she told me about why the bathroom scene presented a few challenges for the cinema relay...
Alessandro Corbelli is perfect as the duped Pasquale - and it is nice that he isn't left wholly in the lurch at the bittersweet conclusion. In the theatre,w hen I went there last week, Alek Schrader's Ernesto seemed beautiful in tone but a tad lacking in amplitude, while Nikolay Borchev as Malatesta proved a baritone full of suitable smoulder and streetwise assurance. Ernesto Mazzola - a glory of a bel canto conductor - creates an atmosphere satisfactorily replete with bubbles. And listen out for Kristine Blaumane's gorgeous cello solo.
It takes a lot to make a Glyndebourne audience clap a tableau upon curtain up; the all-white 18th-century chorus costumes did the trick last week. But - thought for the day here - wouldn't it be wonderful if productions that were not set in the distant past could sometimes produce the same effect? Intriguingly, I have just met and interviewed a cutting-edge opera director - more of whom very soon - who admitted to having a blind spot about bel canto. Chacun a son gout...
The opera is available to watch on the Guardian website, from which I have borrowed it, until 31 August.