Premiered by Glyndebourne on tour in 2011, Mariame Clement’s alluring staging of Donizetti’s comedy arrives at the festival proper. The French director’s take on the piece is nothing if not unusual, despite many traditional elements. The costumes are period, though of an even earlier time than that of the work’s Parisian premiere (1843), when it was played in contemporary dress - thus offering a perhaps unique instance of a director pushing the period not forwards, but back.
Nikolay Borchev and Danielle de Niese in Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne, Lewes Photo: Tristram Kenton
Julia Hansen’s delightful designs frequently feature a revolve, allowing us to witness the different characters in different rooms - or even houses - at more or less the same moment. The results are witty and informative, and the sudden appearance on one turn of the wheel of the entire Glyndebourne Chorus in full 18th century costume is a genuine coup de theatre. Clement’s idea that Malatesta and Norina are actually engaged in some sort of affair is perhaps just plain wrong, but it is so cleverly sketched in that its extra layer of intrigue fascinates.
The cast is of vintage quality. Danielle de Niese offers effortless command of the stage and high-flying vocalism as a tricksy Norina. Enea Scala’s Ernesto combines vital tenor singing with a lazy charm as Pasquale’s wayward nephew. The distinguished Italian buffo specialist Alessandro Corbelli is quite simply the most human protagonist one will ever see or hear - sad and funny simultaneously. More mystifying in his motivation than usual, the manipulative Malatesta comes over as darkly elegant in Nikolay Borchev’s sinister interpretation. Conductor Enrique Mazzola bounces the score along. The overall result is Glyndebourne at its best.