Donizaetti: Don Pasquale

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Donizaetti: Don Pasquale
WORKS: Don Pasquale
PERFORMER: Alessandro Corbelli, Danielle de Niese, Nikolay Borchev, Alek Shrader; Glyndebourne Chorus; LPO/Enrique Mazzola; dir. Marianne Clément

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A third of the way through this Glyndebourne production, just when the marital fur begins to fly, you do wonder why Donizetti called the opera Don Pasquale and not Signora Norina. As the modest convent girl becomes the bride from hell, Danielle de Niese (above) gives another of those highwire performances that defy critical gravity. Pouting, flirting, foot-stamping and finger wagging – what chance has any man? Even Alessandro Corbelli who’s no slouch when it comes to buffo upstaging is muted by comparison. Presumably, this is director Marianne Clement’s point, hinted at in one of the extras on the disc, namely that no man can resist Norina, not even her ‘brother’ Dr Malatesta and certainly not Alek Shrader’s Ernesto. (What hope of happiness for him in married life when he’s got the girl?)

Indeed the milk of human kindness has not so much curdled here as never even flowed. The chorus is a louche troop of aristocrats in white from wig to heels who ogle the spectacle which, like the world on stage, keeps turning – each character, apart from the ubiquitous Dr Malatesta, has a room of their own on a revolve. And when Norina slaps Don Pasquale, the lighting may change to signify a moment of drama, but hearts are still icy hard. Remorse is not on the agenda. Donizetti’s final comedy is as heartless here as it is cruelly funny.

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There are fine performances from the principals. And some stylish singing from Corbelli and Nikolay Borchev as Malatesta, even if he is more plodding than plotting and a tad young for the part, and De Niese tries harder than she needs to. Best of all is Enrique Mazzola who keeps the whole thing fizzing in the pit with the London Philharmonic Orchestra up for anything. Christopher Cook