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Operas are reminiscent of the grandiloquent era of royal courts and princely states, where the operatic performers and tenors, extolled the virtues of the nobility or lamenting the squabbles and rivalry amongst the respective members. Hence the common perception of an opera is cast in austere undertones and hence usually attracts the traditional opera buffs. Yet the opera Don Pasquale belies the typical face of this performance based art form and offers a comical take on the shenanigans of an old bachelor. Created by the 19th century Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, it has withstood the test of time for more than 150 years since it was first performed in Paris and has been recorded a number of times throughout the decades.

About Don Pasquale

The opera, based on three acts, depicts the dilemma of a Don Pasquale, an old bachelor, who in the process of teaching his rebellious nephew Ernesto a lesson for rejecting the proposed bride for him, decides to cut him off from his inheritance altogether. Pasquale gears up for getting married and his friend Dr Malatesta makes the former’s day by arranging for his younger sister to his future bride, which drives an irked Ernesto into departing from the scene entirely. Widow Norina, Ernesto’s unrequited love interest, is approached by Malatesta for playing the part of his younger sister “Sofronia”, whereby to woo and entrap Pasquale. Ernesto, already piqued, has a breakdown during Pasquale’s and “Sofronia’s” wedding but is quickly let in on the plot by Malatesta, who afterwards along with Norina and the now fellow schemer Ernesto, revel in the new found wealth following the marriage ceremony. Having now access to Don Pasquale’s entire fortune, Norina runs up extravagant expenses and launches the next stage of the plot by appearing to drop a letter from her secret suitor proposing her to meet with him in the garden at night. Assuming that he now has a golden opportunity to catch his repugnant wife in a compromising state, an eager Pasquale again becomes an unsuspecting victim in the tricky trio’s designs. In the false hope of getting rid of her when unable to catch her in the act, the codger agrees to Ernesto getting betrothed to a woman of the latter’s choice, which is actually none other than Norina herself, along with granting him his inheritance. Upon realizing his matrimonially forlorn state, Don Pasquale gives the conniving couple his blessings.

Being the 69th of an impressive repertoire of Donizetti’s 71 operas, Don Pasquale was composed in the tradition of the genre of opera buffa that infuses comical aspects of storytelling with the music and the renditions of a cast comprising of tenors, sopranos, baritones and bass styles. Gaetano Donizetti composed it as the 64th of a collection of 66 operas whilst holding the post of the music director and composer in the grand court of the Austria’s Emperor Ferdinand I. Librettist Giovanni Ruffini originally penned the libretto in Italian, basing it on the libretto of Stefano Pavesi's Ser Marc’ Antonio by Angelo Anelli. However, when the Don Pasquale opera was staged for the first time at Théâtre des Italiens in Paris circa 1843, the credit of the libretto was given to Salvatore Cammarano following Anelli’s refusal, due to changes made in his draft by Donizetti.

After debuting in Paris, Don Pasquale was performed at several other venues during the 19th century such as at La Scala in Milan the same year and then later in Her Majesty’s Theater in London. Three years later, it crossed the Atlantic and made its US premier in New York and eight years later it floated across the Pacific to the land down under, making its Australian premier In Sydney’s Royal Victoria Theater in 1854. The Don Pasquale opera runs for just under three hours and made its mark in Paris’s theatrical milieu with its contemporary ensembles and the packaging of stark social truths in a mirthful setting. Drawing its constituent cast from the typical characters of commedia dell'arte, such as the wealth hoarding and miserly Pantalone, the dastardly Scapino, the love struck Pierrot and the scheming, rags-to-riches Columbina. So book your Don Pasquale tickets now for an evening of amusement at the poor geriatric’s expense delivered with lyrical arias and snippets of dramatic portrayal.

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