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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 5 February-March 1998

Winnipeg Diary

Donizetti: Don Pasquale
Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg, Manitoba

November 15, 1997: Manitoba Opera Association’s mounting of Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale proves timely in marking the bicentenary of the composer’s birth. The plot of Don Pasquale includes the standard ingredients of any 19th-century Italian opera buffa. In this case a beautiful young woman dupes a rich old man complete with a contrived wedding and a ludicrous shopping spree (she starts redecorating the house immediately), culminating in a 180° turn in the direction of her real knight in shining armour. Since when did a plot have to be believable or intellectually challenging to qualify as good entertainment?

Opera of Donizetti’s period was created to feature the voice above plot, above sets, above character development, above high production values. As the sweet yet conniving Norina (the opera’s sole female lead role), Winnipeg soprano Tracy Dahl fulfilled Donizetti’s criteria perfectly. She was predictably stunning in this part, which couldn’t have been better suited to her impeccable coloratura and diminutive physique. Tenor Curt Peterson’s voice, though pleasant and warm, was too light to be fully satisfying as Ernesto. Ryan Allen brought vocal and dramatic competence to the role of the beleaguered buffo basso Don Pasquale. Jeff Mattsey put in an admirable, but not particularly memorable, performance as Dr. Malatesta. The orchestra was acceptable but lacked energy at times.

Highest praise of the evening goes to director Michael Cavanagh, a rising Canadian talent. His perceptive staging of this comedy, complete with locale-specific gags, efficient use of the modest sets, and witty slapstick proved he is well-deserving of recent accolades. -Valorie Dick

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