Donizetti: Don Pasquale

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Don Pasquale
PERFORMER: Renato Bruson, Eva Mei, Thomas Allen, Frank Lopardo, Alfredo GiacomottiBavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/Roberto Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61924 2 DDD
Claudio Abbado’s nephew’s conducting of Romantic Italian comedy is typical of the post-Muti generation: highly charged, musically disciplined, rhythmically alert, but oh, so po-faced. The older generation of Italian conductors – Gui, Serafin, even routiniers such as Molinari-Pradelli – could make Rossini’s and Donizetti’s orchestration sparkle. When Abbado musters a smile, it’s a very thin-lipped one. That said, this is a mostly very enjoyable Don Pasquale, as good, if not better, than its closest modern rivals (Muti/EMI, Ferro/Erato) and vocally preferable to sets recently reissued by Decca and Philips. Bruson’s noble Donizetti baritone is not obvious casting for the title role – he lacks the basso buffo art of Corena (Decca) or Bruscantini (EMI) – but this is a more successful foray into comedy than his humourless Falstaff. Allen’s Malatesta makes an elegant foil, even if his tone is greying these days, and their Act II duet is the stylistic highlight of the set. Lopardo sings his parting lament and serenade with juicy Italianate tone and a twinkle in his eye and Mei is a dazzlingly virtuosic, if tonally brittle Norina. Her voice suits the character. In sum, a top recommendation if you can’t abide the Thirties sound of the immortal Sabajno set with Schipa’s peerless Ernesto and Saraceni’s minxish Norina. Hugh Canning