NEW YORK—The Otto Schenk production of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “Don Pasquale” is back at the Metropolitan Opera with a winning new cast. Perhaps the most significant aspect is that it marks the Met debut of rising star Eleonora Buratto.
“Don Pasquale” premiered in 1843, five years before the prolific composer’s death. It was his last comic opera.
The title character is a wealthy old bachelor, who is annoyed at his nephew Ernesto for not going along with an arranged marriage. The young man has his sights on a pretty widow named Norina.
The devious Dr. Malatesta talks Don Pasquale into marrying an innocent young girl, his own sister “Sofronia,” who turns out to be Norina in disguise. After the ceremony, the supposedly shy convent girl turns into a showy spendthrift, who defies and even slaps her befuddled husband.
At the end, Don Pasquale is happily single again and Ernesto wins the hand of the widow.
The title role is being performed by the baritone Ambrogio Maestri, who is as funny here as he was as Verdi’s “Falstaff” several seasons ago. He sang well and used his bulk for comic effect.
Baritone Levente Molnár was adept as the conniving Dr. Malatesta. Their patter duet, “Cheti, cheti, immantimente,” was one of the highlights of the evening.
Eleonora Buratto had the showiest role, and she captured all the facets of the part, starting with the appearance on her terrace, where she sang the aria “Quel guardo il cavaliere … So anch’io la virtù magica” about her power over men, while putting on her stockings. She later gets to act like a shy convent student, when she wears a veil and is introduced to Don Pasquale. Then, after she enters into a sham marriage with the old man, she becomes a shrew. Buratto sang with style, and her voice filled the vast theater. The fact that the soprano is good-looking is another asset.
As Ernesto, Mexican tenor Javier Camarena confirmed that he is one of the finest bel canto tenors in the world. He knocked out a high note at the end of his Act 2 aria “Cercherò lontana terra” that led to the longest ovation of the performance. He also gave a graceful rendition of the serenade “Com’e gentil,” and his love duet with Buratto was rapturous.
Conductor Maurizio Benini led a sprightly performance, and the chorus and orchestra were up to their high standards. Otto Schenk’s 2006 production is helped by director J. Knighten Smit’s witty touches.
30 Lincoln Center Plaza
Tickets: 212- 362-6000 or visit MetOpera.org
Closes: March 18
Barry Bassis has been a music, theater, and travel writer for over a decade for various publications.