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Respectable man of a certain age seeks young lady for companionship and maybe more. Must like stamp collecting…
Tall, handsome 20-something, ready for romance.
Dream girl enjoys riding scooters and drinking capuccinos. Innocent young lass, loves to walk and read, ideally hoping to meet someone who can keep her in style.
Young professional, medically trained, looking for business partner with a view to making a motza.
Four characters, four spectacular voices, and a fast-moving plot: this new production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is as fresh and zingy as a lemon gelato. Enjoy!
As fresh and zingy as a lemon gelato.
Conal Coad laughs. He laughs a lot, and it’s infectious Indeed, as one of Australia’s finest comic singers, he has been making people laugh for well over four decades. Coad’s characters are often grand opera’s sidekicks or sub-plot, but in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale he takes centre stage.
Pasquale is the butt of many a joke in this rollicking story about the folly of old age, though he also scores a few points against the young folk. But how do you make an opera funny?
Coad has given it much thought. “The thing about comedy,” he says, “is if you play it for truth it works, but if you play it thinking, ‘Ho ho ho, look how funny I am!’ then it will fall on its face, guaranteed.”
Getting the laughs is further complicated by the score, which takes the timing out of the hands of the performer, and by the audience, who will often anticipate gags in a well-loved work.
Coad notices how audiences laugh politely at an obvious ‘custard pie’ moment, but the real aim for a comic performer is to take the audience by surpise, to win that spontaneous giggle of recognition.
This production is full of surprises. There are the grand hissy-fits of Don Pasquale’s new wife – played to the max by singer and comedienne Rachelle Durkin. Then there are the little details – an over-zealous footman, a snoozing gangster, a teddy-bear in the luggage.
It all adds up to a fast-moving, laugh-a-minute night in the theatre, powered by Donizetti’s zippy score.
“One of the delights of the music is how it sparkles and bubbles along,” says Coad, “and the production does exactly the same thing. It’s bright and breezy and the set moves in wonderful ways. It never stops. Like poor old Don Pasquale, I think I’ll need to go off to a spa and lie down in a darkened room after this to recover!”
Production partnership with Tokyo Art Foundation.
|Conductor||Guillaume Tourniaire (until 3 December)
|Set & Costume Designer||Richard Roberts|
|Lighting Designer||Matt Scott|
|Don Pasquale||Conal Coad|
|Dr Malatesta||Samuel Dundas|
Running time: approx two hours including one twenty-minute interval.
Performed in Italian with English surtitles.
Scene i A room in Pasquale's House
The old bachelor Don Pasquale wants to marry in order to punish his rebellious nephew, Ernesto, by providing himself with an heir and cutting the young man off from inheritance. Dr Malatesta, calling on Don Pasquale, suggests as a bride his own beautiful sister, Sophronia whom he compares to an angel. Delighted, Pasquale tells him to arrange a meeting at once and pushes Malatesta from the room; even now the old man feels his youth returning. When Ernesto comes in, he again refuses to marry a woman of his Uncle's choice, saying he loves the widow Norina. To punish his insubordination the old man tells Ernesto he must find new lodgings. Pasquale then announces his own marriage plans to his astonished nephew. With no inheritance in the offing, Ernesto sees his dreams evaporating. To add insult to injury, he learns that none other than his friend Malatesta has arranged the marriage of Pasquale, who gloats over Ernesto' s discouragement.
Scene ii Norina's lodgings
Norina reads a romance, laughing at the feminine wiles it describes and taking stock of her own caprices. Suddenly depressed by a farewell note from Ernesto, she is cheered by the arrival of Malatesta, who is plotting on the lovers' behalf. He suggests she impersonate his sister, Sophronia, marry Pasquale in a mock ceremony and drive him to such desperation that he will be at their mercy. Norina declares her willingness to play her role as a convent-bred country girl and goes about rehearsing appropriate gestures under Malatesta's supervision.
Scene i Ernesto’s Room
Ernesto, faced with the loss of home and bride, resolves to nurse his sorrow in a distant land.
Scene ii A room in Pasquale’s House
Pasquale struts up and down, pluming himself on being in such good condition for a man of his years. Pasquale is enchanted when Malatesta introduces the timid ‘Sophronia’ (Norina) and resolves to marry her at once. At the wedding ceremony that follows, Ernesto bursts in and is amazed to discover Norina on the point of marrying Pasquale, but Malatesta manages to apprise him of the situation and Ernesto acts as witness to the contract. No sooner has the Notary pronounced the marriage legal and Pasquale bequeathed his fortune to his bride than Norina turns from demure ingenue to extravagant hussy. While Pasquale protests, Norina, Malatesta and the now convinced Ernesto delight in their success.
Scene i A room in Pasquale’s House
In the now redecorated living room, Pasquale is confronted by the stack of bills his new ‘wife’ has amassed. When the servants arrive laden with more purchases, the old man resolves to put a stop to her extravagance. Elegantly dressed, Norina sweeps through the room on her way to the theatre. When Pasquale attempts to detain her she provokes him into calling her a coquette, then slaps his face – though by now she is beginning to feel truly sorry for him. As she leaves, airily saying she will return in time to wake him in the morning, she drops a letter from an unknown suitor appointing a rendezvous in the garden that night. The desperate Pasquale sends for Malatesta, then leaves the servants to comment on the advantages of working in a household fraught with such confusion. Later, Ernesto promises Malatesta to be in the garden that evening. Alone with Pasquale, Malatesta assures the old man they will trap ‘Sophronia’ in a compromising situation. The pleasure of anticipation is enough to bring Pasquale back to a happy mood.
Scene ii The Garden of Pasquale’s House
Ernesto serenades Norina, who responds rapturously. Their idyll is interrupted by Pasquale and Malatesta – but Ernesto slips away and Norina denies everything. Malatesta now announces that Ernesto is about to introduce his own bride, Norina, into the house. Norina, still playing her part, huffily exclaims she will never share the house with another woman. She threatens to leave, at which Pasquale cannot contain his joy. Ernesto appears, and over ‘Sophronia’s’ mock protests Pasquale grants permission for Ernesto to marry Norina and restores his inheritance. Dumbfounded to discover that Norina and Sophronia are one and the same, Pasquale gives the couple his blessing and joins in observing the moral - ‘A man who marries in old age is a little weak in the head. He is going out of his way to find trouble aplenty.’
“as bubbly and as delicious as a glass of cold prosecco”
Sydney Morning Herald
“Conal Coad was superb”
“Rachelle Durkin has to be one of the great gems of the Australian stage”
The Daily Telegraph