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Don Pasquale review at Glyndebourne – ‘an evening of brilliant entertainment’

Renato Girolami and Andrey Zhilikhovsky in Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne. Photo: Bill Cooper Renato Girolami and Andrey Zhilikhovsky in Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne. Photo: Bill Cooper
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First seen in 2011, Mariame Clement’s production of Donizetti’s classic comedy about an elderly man who marries a young woman with disastrous consequences springs a few surprises on those who know the piece well. Unusually, she and designer Julia Hansen turn the clock back, setting a work the composer expected to be played in its own time (1843) in the eighteenth century – though the results are admittedly very handsome.

More controversial is the implied sexual relationship between Norina and Doctor Malatesta, though again it’s an idea which, however naughty, works well, adding to the piece’s emotional complexity; so do the small hints that Ernesto just could be Pasquale’s son rather than his nephew.

As a staging, the result is a clever and regularly subtle piece of work, avoiding any suggestion of tomfoolery and instead concentrating on the exploration of the complexity of characters often seen as stock types. It even manages – perhaps uniquely in this piece – a momentary coup de theatre with its flamboyant use of costuming for the chorus as the revolve takes the audience on a tour of Pasquale’s house that turns out to be full of visual surprises.

The cast is not quite as choice as some previous ones in this production, but it’s still very good. Renato Girolami has a fine basis for Pasquale, a star role he will undoubtedly take further. Lisette Oropesa’s Norina is vocally adept, and Andrew Stenson’s Ernesto innocently charming. The finest principal performance comes from Andrey Zhilikhovsky as Malatesta – a suave, strongly sung account of the arch-manipulator.

Conductor Giacomo Sagripanti draws precise and dainty playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, allowing the score to bounce buoyantly along.

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Mariame Clement’s clever variations on Donizetti’s comedy provide an evening of brilliant entertainment