While the majority of the Royal
Opera company are singing and playing their hearts out in Tokyo in grand Verdi,
a skeleton crew remain on Bow Street , with two stalwart productions revived by
their original director Jonathan Miller.
Following hot on the heels of the once-Armani Così
on Sunday Miller and associate director Daniel Dooner staged the second revival
of their 2004 Don Pasquale, first seen at the Maggio
Musicale, Florence in 2001.
There are a number of
similarities between Così and Don
an even smaller number of principal singers (four here to Così’s six, though with a small part
for a notary) and only an occasional chorus. There’s a baritone manipulator – here Dr Malatesta to Così’s Don Alfonso – and a lesson to
be taught; here, in essence, an old man’s jealousy at his nephew’s youth.
There’s even a hint at The
Marriage of Figaro ,
especially in the Royal Opera’s own David McVicar production, with servants
ever present – and a whole lot more in the second half after Norina (as
Malatesta’s supposed sister, Sofronia) has spent a sizeable part of Don
Pasquale’s annual income. Curious though are the
anachronistic Versace boxes that signify her spending spree, given that
everything else is echt-period.
productions differ remarkably: from Così’s pastel set to Don
doll’s house on three levels, delineating six rooms, with a tripartite central
stair case. Isabella Bywater’s
beautifully recreated designs include two four poster beds; Ernesto’s on the
top floor, Don Pasquale’s on the middle floor with the servants’ quarters and
While idly wondering why
the front of the house only has two rows of windows for a three-floored house,
once the doors are opened and the set moves forward, the interplay between the
four main characters does, over time, seem to get lost in such a grand
design. All the cast are new to
the roles here, and although nicely sung and acted, seemed to get lost in the
They break the confines
of the set for the final scene as Don Pasquale heads out with Malatesta in tow
to apprehend Sofronia in her suspected assignation, but this rather abrupt
climax is acted out on an empty stage, reversing the problem of the action in
the doll’s house.
unlikable about it all really, but on this Sunday night (a rare Royal Opera
occurrence) there was definitely a certain pizzazz missing. Evelino Pidò, taking over from the late
Sir Charles Mackerras (strange there was no mention at all about Mackerras in
the programme) took a while to warm up, so the overture was tentative and
slightly scrappy, but by the second half the small band was acquitting itself
Paulo Gavinelli was all
bald-headed bluster, a world away from his malevolent Rigoletto, but small
compared to his huge red-covered bed. Barry Banks, even with the announcement
after the interval of his suffering an allergic reaction, was sweet-toned and
plausible as Ernesto, while Jaques Imbrailo repaid the House’s commitment to
him as a former Jette Parker Young Artist as Dr Malatesta, even though he
couldn’t emulate the effect of his playing Billy Budd at Glyndebourne this summer.
Costa Rican soprano
Íride Martínez made a pleasing House debut as Norina, rather pale in character
in the first half, but more full blooded in the second, as she swapped her
pastel dress for a richer darker one.
I think she rather enjoyed bossing Don Pasquale around, and I suspect
her presence will blossom during the run of this revival.