Don Pasquale @ La Monnaie/De Munt

Donizetti, as many other belcanto composers, is not very loved in Brussels, neither comic nor serious operas. Except for sporadic stagings of Elisir d’amore and Don Pasquale over the last 50 years (including the beautiful Kaaitheater staging with a viguros De Marchi and a young Diana Damrau), we have to go back to 1991 and 1982 for concert performances of La favorite and Anna Bolena, or 1979 for a duca d’Alba. Two additional but awful stagings of Lucia and Lucrezia but that’s about it since at least the 1840’s . But the beautiful dramatic operas such as Devereux, Maria Stuarda, Maria de Rohan, Pia etc are missing (unless we look into the 19th century). So even a comic opera is welcome.

The setting of this Don Pasquale is beautifully designed by Pelly and his team. It’s a section of a room rotating on stage in and around which everything evolves. In act II don Pasquale’s life is put upside down by the arrival of Norina, Pelly takes this literally and puts the house ….upside down. I liked the staging and the direction, which was much inspired by Feydeau. Unfortunately there is a lot of overacting, door slamming, stomping etc…far too much and all a bit unrefined, the opposite of donizetti ‘s music, and mostly visible in the overly aggressive Norina of Anne Catherine Gillet. Nonetheless I much enjoyed her beautifully warm timbre, her ease in singing the embellishments and her pronunciation. I would have liked to see also Ms De Niese but she was indisposed the night I went. Excellent are both Don Pasquales, a character which is exceptionally delivered by Pertusi and Spagnoli with much humanity. Pertusi is a wonderful singer with a beautiful round voice, excellent musicality who delivers a touching Don Pasquale with many vocal colours. Where I slightly prefer Pietro Spagnoli is in his spontaneity, in the depiction, often with a simple gesture, of the joys and troubles of the poor old fooled man (hilarious the way he lets himself melt on the armchair when he sees Norina). Impeccable in his delivery of  a wide palette of emotions only through his speaking, the text is articulated in such a way that one can almost hear a comma, a parenthesis, a question mark. I much enjoyed Pogossiov and his lovely open baritone voice. Like a fish out of water Lionel Lhote with his aspirated t’s and double consonants where there weren’t. Dangerously leaned towards off key notes and with a short high register, both tenors are just acceptable though scenically credible. The Munt’s Orchestra, whose playing-together is very unclean, has a scholastic approach and plays with little nuances.

Muzikale leiding-Alain Altinoglu, Regie en kostuums-Laurent Pelly, Decor-Chantal Thomas, Belichting-Duane Schuler, Don Pasquale-Michele Pertusi/Pietro Spagnoli, Dottor Malatesta-Lionel Lhote/Rodion Pogossiov, Ernesto-Joel Prieto/Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani, Norina-Anne Catherine Gillet, Un Notaro-Alessandro Abis, 13+14/12/18. photos ©Baus

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