When plans for the new opera house at Glyndebourne were drawn up, former MP Norman Baker likened it to a gasometer, (he later retracted that and approved of the scheme.)
But the building certainly sparked a blast of cheering approval this week when the Tour’s production of Don Pasquale premiered with the cast graciously accepting curtain call after curtain call.
First staged in Paris in 1843, Donizetti’s comic opera has surprisingly modern references; an older man patronisingly acquiring a young, beautiful bride expected – naturally – to be deferential.
She shocks him by shedding both her virginal lavender gown, her inhibitions and her meekness.
It is a complicated tale to do with deliberately misleading identity, the way vaunting ambition can make fools of us all but in the end true love will win.
The opera relies on the vocal consistency of the tiny cast of four principals – backed by the superb Glyndebourne chorus...for this production clad in white Regency gowns and towering wigs.
Don Pasquale (a towering performance by Portugese baritone Jose Fardilha who could master any straight theatrical comic role) has forbidden his nephew Ernesto to marry his true love Norina.
His physician Dr Malatesta (Norina’s brother) tricks Pasquale into accepting the disguised Norina as his own wife.
After their sham marriage, he finds her so intolerable he relents and allows the pair to marry...in the meantime casting his eye over his comely housekeeper.
Romanian soprano Eliane Pretorian is in perfect voice as the modest bride coming to marriage from a convent who discovers what fun it is to spend her husband’s money on carriages, jewellery and horses.
John Brancy’s scheming Malatesta enjoys a sensational rapid-fire duet with Pasquale and Finnish Tuomas Katajala infuses Ernesto with a clear, accurate and simply heart-stopping tenor – any woman would fall for him at first sight.
The opera is laugh-out-loud funny; quick-fire with sharply drawn characters, immaculately observed. Julia Hanen’s revolving sets embrace the nature of each scene and lighting – as always at Glyndebourne – is awe inspiring.
Cap it all with crisp conducting by the youthful Duncan Ward and whether you are an opera buff or new to the art form, this is an evening’s entertainment when time stands still – in an entirely good way.
Review by Susan King.
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