Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

OPERA! BUT NOT AS YOU MIGHT KNOW IT

Don Pasquale

Welsh National Opera , Welsh National Opera , May-25-19
Don Pasquale by Welsh National Opera Welsh National Opera has done a brilliant job of bringing Donizetti’s 19th century opera into the 21st century with absolutely delightful and hilarious consequences. Our Pasquale is no elegant frustrated gentleman. He’s the rotund proprietor of a Kebab stall that he set up in Cardiff quite a few years ago.

It is this excellently realised kebab stall by designer Loren Elstein that fills the stage. Director, Daisy Evans, who was nominated for Best Young Director at the 2016 International Opera Awards, has done a great job bringing the libretto up to date. Maybe we should just call it a script; there is as much dialogue as great ‘quality’ singing and she drives the production along at just the right comic pace.

We meet Don tending his kebab skewer. There is a big acting demand on all four members of this totally captivating cast. Andrew Shore gives us an absolutely convincing kebab stall owner, he sings with a warm bass and his comedy timing is spot on. As it is with each member of of this totally engaging cast.

Taking a firm grip of the stage and of all of us in the audience as the fixer, Malatesta, Quirijin de Lang, with his thrilling baritone and strong acting readily takes control as the frantic circumstances develop.

Pasquale wants to disinherit his young nephew Ernesto. Most certainly, he doesn’t want him to take over the kebab stall. He needn’t have any worries there; Ernesto is determined to become a pop star. Nico Darmanin could well become one. With his fine tenor, he delivers at least one of his ‘arias’ with all the grunt and grind of a part young Tom Jones and part Michael Jackson.

Pasquale wants to marry. Malatesta will fix it for him. Soon there follows the first of many hilarious carryings on. Malatesta disguises the beautiful young Norina into a voluptuous siren to capture Pasquale. It’s all a question of a huge bra and more curving at the back. Harriet Eyley’s Norina is full of charm and innocent beauty and sings with a crystal soprano. And is well up for tricking Pasquale.

The ‘wedding’ quickly follows. Malatesta takes control and brings us a dodgy celebrant, an on screen B…….. who enters whole-heartedly into the spirit of it all completing the ceremony whilst quaffing popcorn.

New wife rapidly takes control. The kebab stall has now been transformed into a very tidy healthy juice stall. She presses her new husband to drink some frightful looking green liquid but he can’t stomach it.

We already know that Ernesto and Norina are in love. She goes off to meet him but drops a note on the way. This production is full of subtleties! Pasquale finds it and goes off to foil them.

However after many more moments of joy and laughter all seems sorted. We even get the Kebab stall back. Pasquale agrees that Norma and Ernesto shall marry. All is Ok.

We finish on a very up-beat quartet “Let’s treat each other fairly and respect our fellow man”.

No doubt we have had a lot of fun. At the same time Stephen Higgins’ adaptation of the music provided the basis for real quality opera singing.

You know I am still laughing!






Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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