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Don Pasquale review at Garsington Oxfordshire

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A lacklustre account of the overture under conductor David Parry begins an evening that takes a long time to find the focus of Donizetti’s comedy. Francis O’Connor’s sets move the action to Paris, with Norina an artist (why?) and the opening scene taking place in the all too public environment of a street cafe, where a long-running sight-gag with a waiter and a tray and all sorts of relationships going on at other tables, distract from the basic set up of the plot.

Things settle somewhat for the last act, where a psychoanalyst/patient relationship makes sense in the duet between Don Pasquale and Dr Malatesta and the off stage serenade is wittily presented. Elsewhere, with rather too many funny faces being pulled and the potential cruelty of the deception performed on the aged bachelor insufficiently avoided, the approach lacks intelligence and – crucially – warmth.

Conal Coad’s Pasquale is efficient though he fails to establish enough rapport with the audience to make us care about him. Also decently sung, Riccardo Novaro’s Malatesta emerges as all too manipulative and hard. Riccardo Botta’s Ernesto has some sense of style and a presentable stage manner though his top register is ungainly.

Majella Cullagh’s Norina provides the best singing of the evening and she gives her character some essential humanity. But it’s an uphill struggle against a staging that fails to find the right tone for the piece and a sometimes slipshod musical performance.

Production Information

Garsington, Oxfordshire, June 10, 14, 20, 24, 30, July 5, 9

Daniel Slater
Garsington Opera
Cast includes
Majella Cullagh, Riccardo Botta, Riccardo Novaro, Conal Coad
Running time
4hrs (including dinner interval)

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