Don Pasquale – Review

Feb 20 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Don miss it

Alfonso Antoniozzi as Don Pasquale. Scottish Opera's Don Pasquale. Credit KK Dundas

Alfonso Antoniozzi as Don Pasquale. Photo © KK Dundas

Festival Theatre Edinburgh
18, 20 & 22 February 2014, 7.15pm
Review by Paul Johnson

When the overture is still being played and an opera audience is already laughing out loud, the signs are all good for an evening which will be something of a treat.

And so it is with Scottish Opera’s wonderful production of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera from 1843, Don Pasquale.

Those initial chuckles are caused by the comic book scenes projected onto a gauze, setting out the back-story for this particular updating of the story, which has been set in early 1960s Rome.

Here is Don Pasquale, a cat-lover who is allergic to felines but searching for a cure with his friend Dr Malatesta. There is his nephew Ernesto, falling in love with widowed guest Norina – to the anger of Pasquale who has chosen for him a more suitable bride.

Alfonso Antoniozzi is outstanding in the title role, as a grumpy old bachelor who is the cat-loving owner of a run-down pensione. Outstanding not just vocally, but also as an actor. Despite playing such a curmudgeon, Antoniozzi manages to also illicit some sympathy as the bewildered old fool is taught an expensive lesson. His expressions, reactions and gestures make for a compelling performance.

The don’s doctor, Malatesta, is played by Australian Nicholas Lester, who makes an impact right from his first number, Bella siccome un angelo, and throughout with the richness of his baritone voice.

Aldo di Toro as Ernesto, the nephew being cut from the don’s will, provides one of the evening’s highlights with his passionate Com’è gentil being perfect for his warm tenor tones. Elsewhere he stays the right side of over-pressing his voice.

Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson is also rather wonderful as Norina, with a voice that thrills in the trills yet is solid against the full orchestra. And she takes her character from putting-it-on shy kitten to tyrannical tigress with great comic effect.

Add to that some hilarious incidental humour from a fag-smoking maid and decrepit major domo and this is a cast-full of top quality comedy.

Scottish Opera’s former musical director, Francesco Corti, returns to conduct the orchestra and keeps a lively score pacey, yet still expressive in the tender passages.

The decision to set the opera in 1960s Rome is inspired, and the story – as it has been reimagined here – sits perfectly in that time with no obvious plot manipulation to make it fit. And having placed it there, director Renaud Doucet wisely doesn’t then overplay the references.

Huge credit has to go to the Doucet with designer André Barbe and lighting designer Guy Simard for making this such an outstandingly successful piece of top entertainment.

Running time 2 hrs 20 mins
Run ends Saturday 22 February 2014
Tue, Thurs and Sat: 7.15pm.
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tickets from



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