Don Pasquale


Don Pasquale

Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre

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!

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.

Enjoy dinner before the performance at Arts Centre Melbourne's Tram Bar

Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm at Arts Centre Melbourne's Tram Bar.

You'll be served a three-course Italian menu. It's just $55, including matched wine. Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets for an evening performance of Don Pasquale.


Conductor Guillaume Tourniaire (until 3 December)
Brian Castles-Onion
Director Roger Hodgman
Set & Costume Designer Richard Roberts
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Don Pasquale Conal Coad
Norina Rachelle Durkin
Ernesto John Longmuir
Dr Malatesta Samuel Dundas
Notary Benjamin Rasheed

Orchestra Victoria

Opera Australia Chorus

Production partnership with Tokyo Art Foundation.

Running time: approximately 2 hours & 25 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.

The StoryHide

Old, mean and slow-witted, Don Pasquale sees himself as anything but. When he decides to marry and cheat his nephew Ernesto out of his fortune, his friend Dr Malatesta decides to play a practical joke: setting him up with his angelic “sister”: the convent-bound Sophronia.

Ernesto is in his uncle’s bad books for falling in love with the widow Norina, when his uncle had other ideas.

Ever the prankster, Malatesta convinces Norina to dress up as the meek Sophronia, marry the miser and then make his life a living hell.

With the lovestruck Ernesto let in on the plot, the marriage takes place, and Pasquale finds himself unhappily “married” to an outspoken woman with an outrageous spending habit.

In this battle between the delights of young love and an old man’s malevolence, there’s got to be a happy ending in store.


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.’

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