An Italian fotoromanzo
After Studying the score we thought that the creative vitality and energy of Rome in the mid 1960s was an ideal setting for Don Pasquale, Donizetti’s generation clash’ opera.
We imagined that Don Pasquale owns a small, run-down pensione. Old and something of a hermit, he leaves the running of the hotel to his nephew Ernesto and to his staff – a rum bunch including a chain-smoking chambermaid, a greasy cook and a past-it porter, so old that he has has shrunk inside his uniform. A chorus of tourists come and go.
Don Pasquale's real love is: cats. He spends hours watching them wandering freely in the streets. Alas, the tragedy of his life is that he is allergic to these beloved felines. For years Doctor Malatesta has been trying to cure him, but without success. Don Pasquale hoards cat related items to fill the void of his lonely existence.
The young widow Norina, who has moved into the pensione to put back her life on track, has fallen in love with Ernesto. He reciprocates her feelings, in spite of his uncle wishing him to marry a girl from a wealthier family. Seeing that Ernesto is not willing to comply with his orders, Don Pasquale decides to remove him from his will and, instead, to find a bride for himself to make sure that his inheritence will not go to waste.
Malatesta, witnessing the conflict, decides to teach a lesson to the old curmudgeon by passing off Norina as his younger sister, Sofronia, fresh out of the convent. Don Pasquale falls immediately for the young girl with cat-like features. He is not aware that this kitten will soon transform herself into a panther once the wedding contract is signed.
By putting the action in a unit set easily adaptable to various theatre sizes, we avoid technical difficulties or the need for a large crew during the performance. Norina's scene is played partly on the first floor balcony and stairway while washing lines are used to hide the ground floor room and, with the aid of lighting, become the shrubbery for the garden in Act 3.
The dramaturgy of the opera is illustrated during the overture by the video projection of a typically Italian 1960s "Fotoromanzo" starring the principal characters, enabling the audience to immediately jump into the action of this Dramma Giocoso.