A Guide to Don Pasquale

30 April 2019
Don Pasquale title art in neon lights style with pinks, blues and yellows

Don Pasquale, the comic opera of the bel canto genius Gaetano Donizetti, came along in 1842 and remains one of the most popular of his 60+ operatic creations. Considered to be one of the last true opera buffas (Italian term meaning ‘comic opera’), it is claimed that Donizetti composed the music for Don Pasquale in 11 days.

The Characters

Don PasqualeA wealthy merchant: rich, mean-minded and scared of modernisationPahs-KWAH-leh
ErnestoDon Pasquale’s nephew and wannabe singer/songwriterehr-NEHS-toh
NorinaThe girl of Ernesto’s dreams; flirtatious and wilyNoh-REE-nah
MalatestaLocal geezer and tricksterMah-lah-TEHS-tah

The Story 
Even with all of the twists and turns in the narrative, the storyline is familiar enough.

Don Pasquale is the larger-than-life self-made patriarch who came to Cardiff in the 1970s to seek his fortune. He buys a kebab van and tenaciously builds his empire up; it now does a roaring trade on a Friday night. His nephew Ernesto would become his heir, but Pasquale doesn’t think much of the poetry-writing millennial and decides to exclude him from his inheritance and produce his own heirs. Pasquale’s quest to find a wife shocks Ernesto into action and he and his attractive young girlfriend Norina and friend Malatesta conspire to trick the older man, to secure their future and drag him into the 21st Century. 

The production 
Director Daisy Evans, musical director Stephen Higgins and designer Loren Elstein have ripped up the rule book and changed the design, narrative and libretto to bring Donizetti’s opera bang up to date. While Don Pasquale is usually set in Rome, Italy during the early 19th century, Elstein has created a witty set which transports you to downtown Cardiff and positions the piece very firmly in the present day. The libretto follows the structure of the original very closely, but tells the story in a new and innovative way while the re-orchestration is faithful to Donizetti’s original scoring for full orchestra. Our tasty new production is fresh, contemporary and unique and has been reimagined for a modern audience and sees current issues driving this classic comedy.

Director and librettist Daisy Evans says: “Pasquale is proud of his kebab van but has grown mean-minded and scared of modernisation. Ernesto and Norina stand for the future – calling for less plastic use, eco-conscious dining and stripped back design. The two sides are pitted against each other in a comedy that is bound to have you laughing as well as thinking. This is Don Pasquale like you’ve never seen or heard before.”

Donizetti’s music is challenging, to say the least, and the artistry and musicianship is definitely not sacrificed in our cleverly staged production. Navigating their way around the vocal gymnastics of Donizetti’s score is Andrew Shore in the title role, Nico Darmanin as Ernesto, WNO Associate Artist Harriet Eyley as Norina and Quirijn De Lang as Malatesta.

Don Pasquale features a small cast and an on-stage ensemble creating an intimate, operatic experience where the audience is on the very edge of the action, giving a new perspective on this Donizetti classic which is suitable for all ages.

Don Pasquale will be on tour to smaller stages across Wales and England between 25 May – 13 July.