Opera Bites: Love and treachery in 'Don Pasquale'

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saturday's high-definition broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera will be Gaetano Donizetti's "Don Pasquale." The performance begins at noon at the AMC Town Plaza 5 in Cape Girardeau. The encore will be Dec. 1.

Donizetti claimed that he wrote this comic opera in 11 days; it premiered in Paris in 1843. In this Met performance the spectacular Russian soprano Anna Netrebko will be singing the role of Norina.

The opera takes place in 19th-century Rome. Don Pasquale is a wealthy old bachelor who has decided to marry a young woman. He has engaged his physician to find such a woman. Pasquale's nephew, Ernesto, has defied his uncle's wishes and is intent upon marring Norina. Pasquale does not approve of her and has decided to disinherit his nephew. He then proceeds to kick Ernesto out of the house. The young man decides that he will not be able to marry Norina.

In the second scene the plot becomes complicated. Norina and Malatesta, Pasquale's doctor, have cooked up a plot to deceive the old man but Norina thinks the physician has double-crossed her.

In the second act Ernesto is lamenting his fate -- disinherited and betrayed. When Pasquale shows up he is splendidly attired. Malatesta arrives with the intended bride. After the marriage contract is signed, Norina goes crazy and proceeds to attempt to spend all of Pasquale's money. The act ends in total confusion.

By the time Act III begins, Pasquale is surrounded by mounds of bills; he is in despair. When he confronts Norina, she slaps him and the old man is heartbroken. When Malatesta arrives, he sees how awful the old man looks and feels sorry for him. After some more tricks and deceptions, Pasquale realizes that Norina and Ernesto belong together and he gives his blessing for their marriage. He now knows that when an old man marries a young woman he is in for nothing but trouble.

Barbara Herbert is an opera lover and host of KRCU's "Sunday Night at the Opera."

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