Don Pasquale, Opera by G. Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti was a famously productive master of the classic Italian opera, but few of his over 60 works enjoy the lasting fame and popularity of Don Pasquale. A quintessentially Italian opera buffa with bittersweet humour and colourful, intriguing vocals, Donizetti’s last great work will reveal all its charms on the stage of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.
Like with many of his previous operas, Donizetti worked on Don Pasquale at a rapid pace. On top of writing the music, he collaborated actively on the libretto with Giovanni Ruffini, who in turn had based his initial version of Angelo Anelli’s script for Ser Marcantonio, an earlier opera by Stefano Pavesi. Donizetti’s plot changes were so substantial that Ruffini refused to put his name under the final product, fuelling a prolonged debate about the libretto’s actual authorship.
Don Pasquale reveals the story of its titular character, a wealthy old bachelor who is so displeased with his unruly nephew, Ernesto, that he sets out to find a young wife and produce direct heirs, to whom he can pass his substantial inheritance. On his quest, he enlists the help of Dr Malatesta, who secretly sides with Ernesto and his lover, Norina, to trick the old Pasquale.
The ensuing story unfolds in three action-packed acts, full of classic opera buffa laughs: characters pretend to be somebody else, allies turn out to be backstabbers, official weddings are actually a sham – and all this is garnered with typical Italian bitter-sweet humour and Donizetti’s inspired, vivacious melodies.
The music of Don Pasquale is easily among the finest Gaetano Donizetti produced. Working in the well-established comic configuration of an elderly fool, a double-agent trickster, and a couple of young lovers, the Maestro imparts such lovable humanity to each of his characters that the audience cannot help cheering for each of them, even when they are at odds with one another.
Don Pasquale had its premiere on 3 January 1843 at the Théâtre Italien in Paris where it proved to be an instant success. In the following months, the opera made the rounds through Europe’s most renowned performance halls, like Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Vienna’s Kärntnertortheater and Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. This season, it graces the stage of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, its popularity unyielding.