This conventionally staged Don Pasquale from February, 2002 at the Teatro Lirico, Cagliari (originally staged by the Teatro Comunale, Bologna) is on the money. The sets (by Susanna Rossi Jost) are handsome, with a wide, blue sky watching over the action in Don Pasquale's elegant library, and a nice moody garden for the last scene, and it's all well lit by Claudio Schmid. Similarly, Roberta Guidi di Bagno's costumes are just right for people of this class in Rome in the 1750s. Even more important, director Stefano Vizioli gets the tone of this sometimes harsh, sometimes bittersweet, sometimes rollicking comedy just right. Pasquale may be foolish, but he's not a buffoon, and Vizioli makes us feel for him from the start. The famousRead more slap-in-the-face from Norina in the last act can be a moment of terrible cruelty, but again, the director wisely has our Norina looking ashamed of herself, suddenly aware that her ruse may have gotten out of hand. Malatesta is young and not too slick, and Ernesto is likeable as well. The action never flags and there's none of the buffo exaggeration we've come to expect and loathe in this opera.
The singing is uniformly fine. Pasquale is sung by Alessandro Corbelli, who makes a specialty of these buffo roles, and he has the idiom--and the notes--down pat. The voice is impressive and he's as good when boasting in Act 1 as he is unhappy in Act 2. His duet with the natty, energetic Malatesta of Roberto de Candia in the last act is the showpiece it should be, and de Candia's round, bright tone goes well with Corbelli's duskier sound. And speaking of bright tone, tenor Antonino Siragusa sings Ernesto with absolute shine. The voice takes some getting used to, and in fact it may be an acquired taste, but it's a fine voice, with a solid upper extension to a ringing D-flat. Eva Mei's Norina is the centerpiece of the performance; her fluent coloratura, easy top, and slightly acidic tone go hand-in-hand with an easy stage manner and bright eyes--she listens as well as she sings. Conductor Gérard Korsten, new to me, has a natural affinity for the bel canto. His long lines are elegant and his appreciation for Donizetti's bubbly score is evident. He refuses to overstate either the comic or the maudlin characteristics of the opera and reaches an ideal balance. His orchestra and chorus perform with vigor.
The sound is ideal, with genuine stage separation and clarity, the picture is crisp, and subtitles in lots of languages are provided. An add-on is a half-hour of behind-the-scenes stuff, including rehearsals (at times with an alternate cast, sometimes in street clothes) and observations by the director and singers. It's as charming as the performance. Oddly, this opera has remained elusive to a truly great audio-only recording. This one, without making too much of a fuss over itself, is just wonderful.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Don Pasqualeby Gaetano Donizetti
Antonio Siragusa (Tenor),
Eva Mei (Soprano),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone),
Roberto De Candia (Baritone)
Period: Romantic Written: 1843; Italy