Experience Donizetti’s dazzling vocal fireworks at the new Arizona Opera Center or at Tucson Music Hall
Join as as we christen the new Arizona Opera Center by showering our audiences in Donizetti’s dazzling vocal fireworks. Then, this exuberant cast goes to Tucson for a limited engagement at Tucson Music Hall. Renowned Maestro Gary Wedow and stage director Chuck Hudson—a master of the commedia dell’arte tradition—celebrate the composer’s comic masterpiece of wit, wealth and domestic warfare with a spectacular new production of Don Pasquale.
The Met’s “Don Pasquale” — starring Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecien, and John Del Carlo, and conducted by James Levine
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An opera in three acts, with a libretto written in collaboration by Gaetano Donizetti and Giacomo Ruffini, based upon an earlier work by Angelo Anelli, “Ser Marc’ Antonio.”
First performed in Paris January 3, 1843.
Act One is preceded by an overture.
Don Pasquale’s Room.
Don Pasquale paces the floorboards of his living room, contemplating the shocking decision he is about to land on his sole heir and nephew, Ernesto. It is early in the nineteenth century, in a wealthy section of Rome and Don Pasquale, the aging bachelor, has made the decision to marry. This announcement will have resounding consequences for poor Ernesto. Dr. Malatesta enters with a discovery: he has found a bride for the lucky Pasquale, as the aria says — “Bella siccome un angelo,” lovely as an angel.
She just happens to be Malatesta’s sister. Malatesta is ordered to bring her at once, despite his warnings that Pasquale proceed slowly. The doctor departs as Don Pasquale chortles about his potential new role as the father of six!
Ernesto appears at the door, and his Uncle quickly informs the young man he would like him to wed a wealthy lady of Roman social standing. Ernesto loves only his sweetheart: Norina. He patently refuses the arrangement. In a pique of anger, Uncle Pasquale threatens to disown Ernesto, and then blurts out the news of his own wedding plans. The duet which follows attests to Ernesto’s misery and Pasquale’s gleefulness. Ernesto leaves with a request that his Uncle discuss all of this with Dr. Malatesta. He has, the Uncle replies. In fact, Malatesta has offered the hand of his own sister. More despondent than ever, Ernesto now surmises his only ally, Dr. Malatesta, has turned against him as well.
The plot thickens. In her room, lovely Norina sings about love and the romantic novel she has just read, in the aria “quel guardo, il cavliere.” A letter arrives from (of course) Ernesto. And Dr. Malatesta arrives just as Norina finishes the last paragraph. The doctor boasts of his plan to unite the young couple, but Norina shows him Ernesto’s despairing message.
The young man is to be disinherited, the letter explains, and their plans to marry forever postponed. He even proposes to leave Europe altogether! Nonsense, says Malatesta. His strategy is airtight. They will pass Norina off to Don Pasquale as the proposed bride, Sofronia. [Sofronia actually resides in a convent.] Cousin Carlotta, a Notary, will perform a phony marriage ceremony and then Norina will proceed to provide Pasquale with a wedded life of complete misery. He will be screaming for an annulment! The scene closes on a joyous duet.
With the dramatic “Cerchero Iontana terra,” Ernesto vows to leave for distant parts and live out his life in unending sorrow and loneliness. Enter Pasquale, admiring his “trim” figure. Well, not bad for a fellow of seventy. Malatesta and his shy, veiled “sister Sofronia” arrive. As the two men admire her feminine charms, she feigns dizziness and seems about to faint. Pasquale is impressed with her lovely form and hopes aloud that her face matches the rest. When Norina finally lifts her veil, Pasquale falls back, overwhelmed. He immediately proposes and demands a wedding contract on the spot. The obliging Malatesta disappears in search of a Notary and a counterfeit contract is quickly produced. Ernesto is called upon to act as witness. Not knowing Malatesta’s plan, he is at first offended. When Malatesta takes the young man aside to explain, Ernesto consents to participate in this not entirely convincing scenario.
The marriage ceremony completed, chaos ensues. The timid Norina shoves Pasquale away with the authority of an angry she-bear. Then she begins a household campaign of expenditure to bankrupt him in short order. She wants a new carriage, new furniture, younger more attractive servants. And, while they’re at it, why not double the servant’s salaries for heaven sake? She can’t spend enough fast enough. But, of course, there’s always tomorrow. Ernesto and Malatesta shake hands, as Don Pasquale bemoans what will obviously be a gruesome future with his new “wife.”
At the Pasquale household, new deliveries of finery and furnishing continue to arrive as the poor Don bewails his financial doom. Norina appears with the news she will be leaving for the opera. Pasquale is not invited since, “Old men should be in bed early.”
She “accidentally” drops a note to the floor which Pasquale reads when she has departed. The letter invites Norina to a romantic rendezvous in the garden with an unnamed lover. Pasquale nearly collapses with anger and departs for his room.
Servants pass busily to and fro through the living room, gossiping merrily about the free flow of money in the household. As the servants leave, Malatesta and Ernesto appear to discuss the “rendezvous.” They agree, as soon as Pasquale enters the garden, Ernesto will disappear, undetected. Pasquale now returns to the living room and, showing Malatesta the infamous letter left behind by Norina, explains how much he wishes he had let Ernesto marry whomever he pleased, thereby avoiding his own bankruptcy!
Malatesta acts stricken by the entire turn of affairs. He advises Pasquale to catch his unfaithful wife with her lover and expose her infidelity then and there. They’ll insist she give this man up, Malatesta proposes. Such treatment is too good for her, Pasquale protests. Well, they will see what consequences they can fashion to suit the occasion, Malatesta says.
The scene opens on the wonderful tenor aria “Com’ e gentil.” On an idyllic spring evening in the garden, Ernesto sings of his love for Norina and she soon joins him in the romantic duet, “Tornami a dir che m’ami.”
As Pasquale and Malatesta approach, Ernesto quickly escapes. Norina feigns horror at being caught in an assignation with her lover, but also informs Pasquale that she is, after all, in her own garden. Malatesta convinces the flabbergasted Don to let him handle this woman. He informs her the widow Norina is about to marry Ernesto, provided Pasquale approves — which he, of course, does. Ernesto is called out to hear the wonderful news. When Norina objects about this “other woman’s” appearance in “her” household, Pasquale insists — no demands — that the wedding take place immediately. He asks to see the new bride.
Of course, she is already there, and Malatesta explains the whole scheme. The disoriented old man denounces the couple until they fall on their knees before him. Finally, he forgives them and offers his blessing, as the four launch into a quartet proclaiming the foolishness of old men who court young women.
|Conductor||Gary Wedow||4/2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19|
|Associate Conductor||Keitaro Harada||4/26, 27|
|Stage Director||Chuck Hudson||n/a|
|Don Pasquale||Craig Colclough||ALL|
Gaetano Donizetti was born November 29, 1797 in Bergamo, Italy. He, Bellini and Rossini were the three great masters of the opera style known as bel canto . Bel canto operas had set numbers of separate arias and ensembles that featured particularly florid vocal writing designed to show off the human voice to maximum effect. These works demanded great virtuosity from the singers and served as star vehicles for leading operatic performers. Donizetti dominated the Italian opera scene during the years between Bellini’s death and Verdi’s rise to fame after Nabucco.
Donizetti’s musical talents were apparent at an early age, and he was admitted to the Lezioni Caritatevoli school on full scholarship when he was nine years old. The school was founded by Simon Mayr, who had a significant influence upon Donizetti’s musical development and helped the young composer launch his professional career. Mayr sent Donizetti to Padre Stanislao Mattei, the teacher of Rossini, for further compositional instruction. Mayr also partially paid for the lessons with Mattei and arranged for Bartolomeo Merelli to write the librettos for Donizetti’s early stage works.
Between 1817 and 1821, Donizetti received several commissions from Paolo Zanca. His first staged opera was Enrico di Borgogna in 1818. He wrote several other works during this period, including chamber and church music as well as opera. It was the success of his fourth opera, Zoraide di Grenata, that caught the attention of Domenico Barbaia, the most important theater manager of his time. Barbaia offered Donizetti a contract. The young composer accepted it and moved to Naples, which was Barbaia’s primary business location. For the next eight years Donizetti wrote works for Rome and Milan as well as Naples, with mixed success. It was not until 1830, with the performances of Anna Bolena in Milan, that Donizetti achieved international fame.
Donizetti was a prolific composer, writing both comic and serious operas as well as solo vocal music. Throughout his career he battled with the powerful Italian censors to put his works on stage. Two of his best-known comedies, L’elisir d’amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843), are considered masterpieces of comic opera and continue to hold their places in the standard performing repertoire. Perhaps his most famous serious opera is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), although Anna Bolena has enjoyed considerable success in this century through the efforts of such artists as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. Donizetti was well acquainted with the greatest singers of his day, and he created many of the roles in his operas for their specific vocal talents.
As Donizetti’s fame grew, he was able to accept of variety of engagements, writing operas for Paris as well as the famous opera houses of Italy. He relocated to Paris in 1838. It was there that he composed La fille du régimentrégiment in 1840, which is still frequently performed. Donizetti was also appointed music director for the Italian opera season at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, a position secured for him by Mirelli, the librettist for his early works.
Donizetti was a friendly and sincere man, supportive of fellow composers and other artists, and loyal to his long-time mentor Mayr. Unfortunately, he endured great tragedy in his personal life. Donizetti had met his wife Virginia Vasselli while he was in Rome in the 1820′s and married her in 1828. They had three children, none of whom survived. His parents died in the mid 1830s. A year after his parents’ death, his wife succumbed to a cholera epidemic. Donizetti himself suffered from cerebro-spinal syphilis. Symptoms of his illness became evident as early as 1843; by 1845 his condition deteriorated to the point that he was institutionalized for almost a year and a half. His friend from Vienna, Baron Lannoy, interceded with Donizetti’s nephew to have the composer moved to a Paris apartment where he could be cared for and receive visitors. Verdi came to see him there and was deeply saddened by his colleague’s condition. Friends in Bergamo finally arranged for Donizetti to be brought back to his home town, where he stayed at Baroness Scotti’s palace until his death in 1848.
Donizetti was reputed to have great facility and could compose very quickly. His favorite librettist was Salvadore Cammarano, with whom he first collaborated on Lucia di Lammermoor. Donizetti often assisted in writing the librettos for his operas. He completed 65 operas during his career; L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale, and Lucia di Lammermoor are generally considered the outstanding examples of his work. His compositional style proved influential for future Italian opera composers, most notably Verdi.