Don Pasquale…an opera review by Michelle Coleman

November 21, 2014 by Michelle Coleman
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Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, in the tradition of opera buffa, is a comic masterpiece that is brought to life with wit and charm in Opera Australia’s 2014 Spring season.

John Longmuir as Ernesto, Rachelle Durkin as Norina, Conal Coad as Don Pasquale and Samuel Dundas as Dr Malatesta.  Photo:  Jeff Busby.

John Longmuir as Ernesto, Rachelle Durkin as Norina, Conal Coad as Don Pasquale and Samuel Dundas as Dr Malatesta.
Photo: Jeff Busby.

 

The story is based around four stock comic characters: the vain and ridiculous older man who still believes himself attractive to young women, his lovesick nephew, a wily young widow and a conniving doctor whose plots and intrigues drive the action.

For this production, the essentially timeless story has been transported by director Roger Hodgman from its original nineteenth century backdrop to a twentieth-century setting, based on William Wyler’s 1953 film, Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and a young Audrey Hepburn. The clothing and sets immediately identify the period and work well together to recreate the era. This is particularly evident when the young Norina sets about redecorating her older husbands beautiful traditional villa in the latest styles.

Rachelle Durkin as Norina & the Opera Australia Chorus. Photo:  Jeff Busby.

Rachelle Durkin as Norina & the Opera Australia Chorus.
Photo: Jeff Busby.

Musically, the production is wonderful. The orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Guillaume Tourniaire, plays with a vigour that complements the action on stage, while the placing of the trumpet solo on stage, rather than in the pit, adds a nice touch. Unfortunately, however, at times the orchestra played a little loud, drowning out some of the voices in the lower registers.

Rachelle Durkin, in the role of Norina, is stunning. She makes easy work of the complex vocal runs and her acting is superb. She is convincing, suitably melodramatic, and very, very funny. Conal Coad in the title role sang beautifully and offered audiences just the right mix of ridiculousness and pathos. Samuel Dundas’ Dr Malatesta was another fine performance, particularly in Act I where his acting talents are set with Durkin’s, resulting in some gloriously comic moments.

John Longmuir as the lovesick Ernesto, albeit passable, was sadly not a dramatic match for the other performers. At times his voice sounded forced and his acting was a little wooden.

Overall, however, Don Pasquale is a delightful and vibrant production that proved to be a great evening’s entertainment.

Don Pasquale is playing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until December 12.

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