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Donizetti’s "Don Pasquale" Outdoors at the Met Opera's Summer HD Festival
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Donizetti’s "Don Pasquale" Outdoors at the Met Opera's Summer HD Festival

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Donizetti’s Don Pasquale
Summer HD Festival
(Summer HD Festival Web Page)
At the
Metropolitan Opera
(Met Opera Website)

Outdoors at the
Metropolitan Opera House

Anna Netrebko as Norina
Matthew Polenzani as Ernesto
Mariusz Kwiecien as Malatesta
John Del Carlo as Don Pasquale
Conductor, James Levine

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto: Giovanni Ruffini with G. Donizetti
Production: Otto Schenk
Set and Costume Designer: Rolf Langenfass
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Live in HD Director: Gary Halvorson
Music Producer: Jay David Saks

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 30, 2014

Don Pasquale (1843)
Original Recorded Production, November 13, 2010
(Read the Synopsis of Don Pasquale).

Hot on the heels of last night’s Donizetti opera, L’Elisir d’Amore, starring Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecien, the Met Opera presented tonight’s Summer HD Festival film, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, also starring the same three Met Opera virtuosos. This was an unfortunate scheduling tactic, because Don Pasquale has no show-stopping aria., like last night’s “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, and tonight’s comedy was not as imbued with poignant passion. Even more, the fourth lead character in Don Pasquale, also a tall, portly bass, as was the fourth lead last night, didn’t arrive in a stately carriage, but rather in a decaying mansion.

Ms. Netrebko was Norina, the object of Ernesto’s (Matthew Polenzani) desire, but he’s set to lose his large inheritance from Uncle Don Pasquale, if he doesn’t marry another woman (offstage, unnamed). Don Pasquale’s friend, Doctor Malatesta (Mariusz Kwiecien), is a brother to Norina, and he sets up a scheme to stage a faux wedding between Norina (dressed as a nun, “Sofronia”), who then turns into a vivacious, vengeful vixen, slapping poor Don Pasquale about, while squandering his wealth on jewels and furnishings. At the finale of three comic Acts, Ernesto gets Norina, as wished, and Don Pasquale gets his single life back. In fact, Norina’s final aria, in lead with the cast and outstanding Chorus, is “La moral di tutto questo”, a song chanting the mistake of marrying in old age. Tonight’s packed outdoor audience loved that song.

Ms. Netrebko, as Norina, is full of life, hilarious as the nun turned vixen, and adds sexy, sassy personality to each song. Her tones are resplendent and rich, but no tune or particular aria remains in the memory. Mr. Kwiecien, Norina’s brother, exudes a little too much chemistry with Ms. Netrebko for sibling affection, at one point close on a couch. His facial and hand gestures, just as in L’Elisir, were nuanced and entertaining, but, in this opera there was little room to breathe, little down time, little pathos. Filling that gap is Mr. Polenzani, as Ernesto in this 2010 performance, two full years before his performance in last night’s opera. He exudes, early on, a sense of generosity and connectivity with the audience, a sense of vulnerability, humility, and purpose. His passion overflowed in the garden scene, outside Don Pasquale’s mansion. Song and sensuality were thick. His voice is astounding. Mr. Polenzani will appear in the Met’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann in Winter 2015, splitting the lead tenor role with Vittorio Grigolo, who was favorably reviewed last week in the Summer HD Festival film of La Bohème.

Mr. Del Carlo, as Don Pasquale, carried most of the rapid, pattering arias, in conjunction with other leads and with the Chorus, many of whom played roles of his servants and assistants. He’s a very large figure, and his bass tones filled the outdoor Plaza. In the filmed close-ups, he was buffoonish at first, in anticipation of a wife, then truly distressed at his cruel fate, as Ms. Netrebko ruled over him, in pink tights and black, high cut dress. Mr. Del Carlo is a superb actor, with powerful vocals, but, once again, none of tonight’s arias hummed after the screen was dark. Otto Schenk’s production included Rolf Langenfass’ outlandish costumes for Ms. Netrebko, including a sailor collar and veil for her nunnery attire. Mr. Langenfass, also set designer, had dozens of crates and boxes tossed about, after Norina shopped till she dropped. The garden scene and bushes were more subdued. Duane Schuler’s lighting shifted from bright interior to nighttime moonlight. James Levine conducted with overflowing enthusiasm, as the filmed HD operas have orchestral and conductor close-ups, even backstage. When Ernesto sings, offstage, we were able to see him behind the curtain, being conducted in a plaintive aria.

Maestro Levine appeared onstage at the curtain, holding onto the wall, then Mr. Kwiecien’s hand, as Maestro Levine has had numerous issues with his back. It was good to see him so ebullient, working in the pit and basking on the stage. Kudos to the Met Opera for providing the Summer HD Festival. The live in HD Series continues throughout the year, indoors, in selected movie theaters on specific calendar dates.

Anna Netrebko in Donizetti's "Don Pasquale"
Courtesy of Met Opera Website

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at