This fabulous Italian operatic confection by Donizetti is what’s known as an opera buffa or comic opera. The Italian word buffa probably comes from the same route as our word buffoon…and this opera is based around one such fool.
The buffoon in question is Don Pasquale himself. As the saying goes, there’s no fool like an old fool, and Don Pasquale is certainly no longer in the first flush of youth. He has no children, meaning his considerable fortune will pass to his nephew, Ernesto. But Don Pasquale has become dissatisfied with Ernesto, who has had the nerve to fall in love with someone Don Pasquale disapproves of – an impoverished widow named Norina. Don Pasquale decides he wants to marry and produce an heir of his own, disinheriting his nephew. Fortunately, the lovers have Don Pasquale’s supposed friend Dr Malatesta (which if my limited Italian hasn’t completely failed me roughly translates as Dr Headache) to help them outwit him – although of course, there are complications along the way.(Well, it wouldn’t be much fun if everything was resolved easily, would it?)
As you may have guessed by now, this isn’t the most serious of operas. It’s fun. And funny. This work – first performed in 1843 – is regarded as the high point of the opera buffa tradition. Donizetti himself was sure he had a hit on his hands, despite stories that rehearsals had been somewhat disastrous, “Have no fear for me…my work will be a success,” he stated.
Fortunately for him, it was, and has remained so. As well as being Donizetti’s most popular work, it’s regarded as one of the three great Italian comic operas (the other two are Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Donizetti’s own L’elisir d’amore).
This production is a revival of the one originally staged by Glyndebourne, to great acclaim, in 2013. Directed by Mariame Clement, it’s set in the eighteenth century, with appropriately lavish costumes and staging. Whether you’re a long term lover of opera, or a first timer, this production is sure to be a treat for Marlowe audiences.
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