Elizabeth Polese is Norina
in Don Pasquale
photo: Emily Cooper


Vancouver Opera

Gaetano Donizetti‘s Don Pasquale

When & Where February 10 at 7:30pm, February 15 at 7:30pm & February 18 at 2pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Conductor Jaques Lacombe Directors André Barbe & Renaud Doucet Chorus Director Leslie Dala Lighting Design Guy Simard Set & Costume Design André Barbe & Renaud Doucet Design Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

CAST Don Pasquale Gregory Dahl, baritone Ernesto Josh Lovell, tenor Malatesta Phillip Addis, baritone Norina Elizabeth Polese, soprano

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM

Reviewer John Jane

Don Pasquale is an opera buffa in three acts by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti . It was an instant success when first performed in the middle of the nineteenth century and is stll regarded as Donizetti's comic masterpiece.

Whle the music and (Italian) libretto is a couple of centuries old, André Barbe and Renaud Doucet’s contemporary vision takes this delightful comic opera to Rome in the mid nineteen-sixties. Elements like elder abuse and patient/doctor betrayal that we would now consider bad form at best are glossed over by satire and slapstick.

Three of the four principle characters lack any moral compass. Ernesto, Don Pasquale’s nephew is an indifferent participant in Dr. Malatesta and the widow Norina’s cruel ruse to deceive Don Pasquale – not that he doesn’t have his own shortcomings, after kicking the callow Ernesto out of his house for simply refusing to marry the woman chosen for him.

Don Pasquale’s social life, even for and elderly curmudgeon is almost non-existent. What passion he holds is for his many cats, which he is painfully allergic to. Predictably, he readily falls for Norina’s fake charm that evaporates as soon as the ink is dry on their fake marriage license.

The six-minute Overture, played in front of a screened storyboard, certainly suggests a light and lively opera. it begins with percussion and brass and ends with a vibrant fanfare.

We first meet the coquettish Norina, sublimely portrayed by Toronto-born soprano Elizabeth Polese, with her first act aria Quel guardo, il cavaliere where she compares her sexuality to a heroine in the book she is reading. British Columbia native Josh Lovell is an exceptional Ernesto. He is a perfect foil to Elizabeth Polese’s larger-than-life performance with his plaintive show-stopping aria Cercherò lontana terra as he ponders on how his ”youthful dreams have now gone.”

Of the two baritones, Gregory Dahl in the title role probably has the most to do and he does it so well. His second act power play duet with Elizabeth Polese is uproarious. Phillip Addis’ Doctor Malatesta is perhaps Donizetti’s least sympathetic character. As Norina’s partner in crime and Pasquale’s attending physician, his character’s questionable ethics required his nuanced performance.

The newly appointed music director at the Vancouver Opera, Maestro Jaques Lacombe allows the orchestrations to be expansive, not least in the trumpet solo as the prelude to act two. Barbe and Doucet’s wonderful scenic design and clothing accurately represent the period and place of mid nineteenth century Europe.

In the final aria la morale in tutto questo, Norina colourfully explains the moral of the story. She stresses her conviction that when a man looks to marry in later life, he will bring a lot of trouble on himself. However, for Don Pasquale, just because you’re marrying in older age, it’s still not wise to rush into it.

© 2024 John Jane