Donizetti: Don Pasquale

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti
WORKS: Don Pasquale
PERFORMER: Claudio Desderi, Mario Cassi, Francisco Gatell, Laura Giordano, Gabriele Spina; Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza; Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra/Riccardo Muti; dir. Andrea De Rosa (Ravenna, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: Arthaus 101 303 NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Donizetti may have christened it a dramma buffo rather than a commedia and it’s true that Don Pasquale blends merriment and sadness in equal measure; but it is still a comedy and we are to be encouraged to laugh. Not, alas, in this production directed by Andrea De Rosa for the 2006 Ravenna Festival. Pasquale is a frock-coated patriarch from the 1840s, and played straight as a die by Claudio Desderi; a kind of captain of the new industrial world of anger, trains and telegrams. And Mario Cassi’s Dr Malatesta is just as removed from the buffotradition to which this composer’s last masterpiece belongs. Indeed only >the lovers, Ernesto and Norina come across as unmistakeably Donizettian,a properly Romantic hero and heroine and happily removed from the Ibsenesque naturalism that marks the rest of this production. (And what a cliché it is now to have the characters sitting on both sides of the stage waiting to step into their costumes and their roles.)Apart from Desderi it’s a young cast with all the virtues and the vices of youth. To my mind, Laura Giordano has not quite the vocal weight for Norina yet, though she is utterly beguiling in her Act I duet with Malatesta as he coaches her to outwit Pasquale. Francisco Gatell is a suitably plaintive Ernesto and Mario Cassi’s Malatesta would be fine if he had been allowed to be funny. Riccardo Muti takes it equally seriously in the pit. This DVD presents us with a carefully prepared performance of an unquestionably great score, but where you might wonder, is the fizz?