is an opera buffa
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc...
, or comic opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti
Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy. His best-known works are the operas L'elisir d'amore , Lucia di Lammermoor , and Don Pasquale , all in Italian, and the French operas La favorite and La fille du régiment...
. The librettist Giovanni Ruffini
Giovanni Ruffini was an Italian poet of the early 19th century. He is chiefly known for having written the draft of the libretto of the opera Don Pasquale for its composer Gaetano Donizetti.Ruffini was from Genoa...
wrote the Italian language libretto after Angelo Anelli's libretto for Stefano Pavesi
Stefano Pavesi was an Italian composer.Born in Casaletto Vaprio, he is best known for his many operas.. He died at Crema, Lombardy in 1850.-References:...
's Ser Marcantonio
At the time of its composition, Donizetti had just been appointed music director and composer for the imperial court of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria
Ferdinand I was Emperor of Austria, President of the German Confederation, King of Hungary and Bohemia , as well as associated dominions from the death of his father, Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, until his abdication after the Revolutions of 1848.He married Maria Anna of Savoy, the sixth child...
, and Don Pasquale
was the 64th of an eventual 66 operas he composed.
The opera, in the tradition of opera buffa, harks back to the stock characters of the commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...
. Pasquale is recognizable as the blustery Pantalone
Pantalone, or Pantalone del bisognosi, Italian for 'Pantalone of the needy', is one of the most important principal characters found in commedia del arte...
, Ernesto as the lovesick Pierrot
Pierrot is a stock character of pantomime and Commedia dell'Arte whose origins are in the late 17th-century Italian troupe of players performing in Paris and known as the Comédie-Italienne; the name is a hypocorism of Pierre , via the suffix -ot. His character in postmodern popular culture—in...
, Malatesta as the scheming Scapino
Scapino, Scappino, or Scapin, is a zanni character from the commedia dell'arte. His name is related to the English word "escape" in reference to his tendency to flee from fights, even those he himself begins. He has been dated to the last years of the 16th century, and his creation is sometimes...
, and Norina as a wily Columbina
Columbine is a fictional character in the Commedia dell'Arte. She is Harlequin's mistress, a comic servant playing the tricky slave type, and wife of Pierrot...
. The false Notary
echos a long line of false officials as operatic devices.
was first produced on 3 January 1843 at the Comédie-Italienne
Over time, there have been several buildings and several theatrical companies named the "Théâtre-Italien" or the "Comédie-Italienne" in Paris. Following the times, the theatre has shown both plays and operas...
Other performances during the 19th century include those at La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...
on 17 April 1843, the first performance in Italy. In London it was presented for the first time in England on 29 June 1843 at Her Majesty's Theatre, and the United States premiere took place on 7 January 1845 at the Téatre d'Orleans in New Orleans. The first Australian performance was presented in Sydney on 12 October 1854 at the Royal Victoria Theatre.
While not a part of the "standard" repertory, Don Pasquale
appears with some regularity on the schedules of world opera houses.
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types...
|Premiere cast, 3 January 1843
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...
: – )
|Don Pasquale, an elderly bachelor
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...
Luigi Lablache was an Italian opera singer of French and Irish heritage. He was most noted for his comic performances, possessing a powerful and agile bass voice, a wide range, and adroit acting skills: Leporello in Don Giovanni was one of his signature roles.-Biography:Luigi Lablache was born in...
|Dr Malatesta, his physician
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...
Antonio Tamburini was an Italian operatic baritone.Born in Faenza, then part of the Papal States, Tamburini studied the orchestral horn with his father and voice with Aldobrando Rossi, before making his debut as a singer, aged 18, in La contessa di colle erbose . He went on to become one of the...
|Ernesto, Pasquale's nephew
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...
Giovanni Matteo "Mario" was an Italian opera singer. The most celebrated tenor of his era, he was lionized by audiences in Paris and London.-Early life:...
|Norina, a youthful widow, Ernesto's beloved
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
Giulia Grisi, also known as Madame De Candia was an Italian opera singer...
|Carlino, Malatesta's cousin and a notary
Frederick Lablache was an English singer.Lablache, eldest son of Luigi Lablache, vocalist, was educated by his father. About 1837 he appeared at the King's Theatre, London, in Italian opera, and afterwards frequently sang at Manchester with Mario, Grisi, and Favanti...
Scenes 1–3: A room in the home of Don Pasquale, at 9 o'clock
Ernesto has refused the woman that his uncle Don Pasquale had found for him, and as a result is to be disinherited. Ernesto declares his devotion to the young - but poor - widow Norina. In view of Ernesto's determination, he decides to marry in old age to produce his own heir, and anxiously awaits the arrival of his physician, Dr. Malatesta, who is determined to teach Don Pasquale how foolish he is being, but has been pretending to search for a suitable bride. Malatesta, confronted with Pasquale's impatience, mutters that he is a buffoon, but proceeds to describe the attributes of the bride-to-be (Bella siccome un angelo
– "Beautiful like an angel"). Honest, modest and sweet – when pressed, Malatesta reveals she is in fact his sister. Overcome with joy, Pasquale demands to meet her at once, and sends Malatesta to fetch her, before singing of the love that has gripped him (Ah, un foco insolito
– "A sudden fire").
Ernesto comes back and pleads with the Don to consult with his friend Malatesta – when he hears that Malatesta supposedly supports Pasquale, he is amazed at this apparent betrayal (Mi fa il destino mendico
– "Fate has made a beggar of me"). Ernesto determines to elope and writes to tell Norina that all is lost.
Scenes 4–5: An apartment in the home of Norina
Norina sits alone, reading a book. She recites a passage, before laughing at the situation described and reflecting on her own temperament (So anch'io la virtù magica
– I too know your magical virtues"). She is in cahoots with Dr. Malatesta and impatiently waits for him to come and explain his plan at which he had only hinted. A servant delivers the letter from Ernesto, which she quickly reads and is instantly dismayed.
Malatesta arrives to explain the stratagem, but Norina cuts him off and hands him the letter, which he reads aloud: Ernesto has announced his intention to leave Rome, and Europe altogether. Malatesta reassures her, saying that he has adapted his plan: Norina shall play the part of Malatesta's sister. Having arranged for his cousin to act as a notary, they will easily deceive the Don. Norina consents to play her part in the deception, and they discuss her strategies in a lively duet (Pronta son; purch'io non manchi
– "I am ready; if I do not miss").
A salon in the home of Don Pasquale
Ernesto is alone: lamenting his fate, he considers his decision to leave Rome (Cercherò lontana terra
– "I shall seek a distant land"). He leaves the room just as Pasquale enters, dressed in his outdated finery, along with his servants, to whom he gives instructions to admit Malatesta on his arrival. He parades around in his grand costume, hoping it will conceal his advancing years.
Malatesta arrives with Norina in tow, and introduces her to Pasquale as his sister, Sofronia, fresh out of the convent. Pasquale is smitten, and Norina plays the part of a dutiful, modest and submissive lady, to Pasquale's satisfaction. Norina consents to the proposed marriage, which delights Pasquale. He wants to send for the notary to conduct the ceremony straight away – conveniently, Malatesta has brought one along, who waits in the antechamber.
Malatesta fetches the supposed notary, as servants arrange a table. Taking his seat, the "notary" writes out a marriage contract as dictated by Malatesta and Pasquale (Fra da una parta
– "Between, on one hand"), where the Don bequeaths all his state to be administrated by Sofronia. The contract is quickly drawn up: Pasquale signs but, before Norina can affix her signature, Ernesto bursts in. Intending to say a final farewell, he is amazed to see Norina about to marry Pasquale. However, Malatesta persuades him not to say anything (Figliol non mi far scene
– "Son, don't make a scene"), and he is forced to act as the final witness much to Don Pasquale's delight.
As soon as the contract is signed, Norina abandons her pretence of docility, and refuses Pasquale's embrace. She announces her intention to teach him
manners, and to have Ernesto as a gallant to accompany her on evening strolls. Pasquale is horrified at this transformation, while Malatesta and Ernesto can barely conceal their amusement (È rimasto là impietrato
– "He stands there, petrified"). Summoning the household staff, Norina recites a long list of demands – more servants (young and handsome at that), carriages and horses, furniture – and instructs them to spare no expense doubling all their wages. Pasquale is stricken at his misfortune, so Malatesta urges him to go to bed.
Scenes 1–5: A room in the home of Don Pasquale
Pasquale sits in a room, surrounded by piles of newly-purchased jewels, dresses and the like, as the servants bustle in and out of Norina's apartment (I diamente presto presto
– "The diamonds, quickly, quickly"). Dismayed by the piles of bills and invoices, the Don summons the courage to confront his tyrannical new wife. Norina emerges, dressed to go out. He attempts to reason with her, but she pays little heed (Dove corre in tanta fretta
– "Where are you running in such a hurry"). He suggests that if she leaves, he may not allow her to return, an idea that she meets with patronising insincerity (Via, caro sposino
– "There, there, dear little husband") but the discussion ends in her slaping him. As she exits, she drops a note which Pasquale picks up and reads. The note is addressed to Sofronia, arranging a meeting in the garden with its unnamed, admiring author. Pasquale calls for a servant to summon Malatesta, before leaving the room.
The servants return and, amongst themselves, at once complain at the amount of work they are being made to do, and reveal how much they are enjoying the farcical drama developing between Pasquale and his new wife (Che interminabile andirivieni!
– "Such endless coming and going!"). At the approach of Malatesta and Ernesto, however, they exit, assured of more entertainment to come. Malatesta reminds Ernesto of the finer points of their plan, and the latter leaves. The doctor moves forward to greet Don Pasquale, who tells him of Norina's intended assignation, and his own plan to expose her unfaithfulness before a magistrate. Malatesta persuades him to moderate his plan and Pasquale, believing him an ally, consents to his conditions, while plotting his revenge on Norina (Aspetta, aspetta, cara sposina
– "Wait, wait, dear little wife").
Scenes 6–7: The garden, adjoining Pasquale's house
In the garden, as night draws in, Ernesto sings of his love for Norina, as he waits for her arrival (Com'è gentil
– "How gentle"). At last, Norina emerges, and they sing of their love for one another (Tornami a dir che m'ami
– "Say again that you love me"). Don Pasquale and Malatesta have observed and, as they reveal themselves, Ernesto covers himself with a cloak and runs to the house. Pasquale tries to confront Norina – he has caught her in flagrante
– but this only provokes a fight that leaves the Don spluttering. She refuses to leave at his demand, so Malatesta, as per his agreement with Pasquale, takes over. Pretending to negotiate with Norina/Sofronia, he tells Pasquale that the only way to make her leave will be to allow Ernesto to marry his beloved, whom "Sofronia" apparently despises. Pasquale consents, and calls out to the house, from which Ernesto and the servants emerge. He instructs Ernesto to send for his would-be bride, but Malatesta reveals that Norina is in fact the woman Pasquale thinks he married, while the real Sofronia remains in a convent. All are reconciled, and the moral of the story – not to marry in old age – is revealed in a playful quartet (La moral di tutto questo
– "The moral of all this").
(Don Pasquale, Norina, Malatesta, Ernesto)
Opera house and orchestra
Lorenzo Molajoli was an Italian opera conductor who was active in recording during the 1920s and 30s.The facts surrounding the career of the conductor Lorenzo Molajoli are obscure. He was born in Rome in 1868 and studied there at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia...
Teatro alla Scala, Milan Orchestra and Chorus
|78rpm records: Columbia
Cat: GQX 10100-10105
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La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Cat: 2CD 78017
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Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
|CD: Decca "Originals"
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London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra is a major orchestra of the United Kingdom, as well as one of the best-known orchestras in the world. Since 1982, the LSO has been based in London's Barbican Centre.-History:...
and Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Cat: CDMB 5 66030-2
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Sir Thomas Allen,
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Munich Radio Orchestra
The Munich Radio Orchestra is a German symphony orchestra based in Munich. It is one of the two orchestras affiliated with the Bavarian Radio , the other being the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra....
and Bayerischer Rundfunk
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Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala
(Stage director: Stefano Vizioli)
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House Orchestra and Chorus
(Video recording of a performance at the Zurich Opera)