Miami Lyric Opera opens season with a delightful “Don Pasquale”

By Lawrence Budmen

Pini-Corsi, De Luca, Storchio i Sobinov, Don Pasquale a La Scala (1904-05)
Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is one of the gems of Italian opera buffa, an enchanting blend of effervescent music and the bittersweet tale of an elderly bachelor’s attempt to marry a young woman and disinherit his lovesick nephew.

Miami Lyric Opera’s production of this bel canto masterpiece opened the company’s 2010 season Thursday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach and proved a diverting entertainment, offering some gifted singers in a charming production. Only substandard orchestral playing marred this fine presentation.

Aided by picture-book sets and colorful period costumes, artistic director Raffaele Cardone’s deft, fast-paced staging emphasized the comedy’s wit and wisdom without overplaying the slapstick elements.

Veteran buffo bass Stefano de Peppo was a capital Don Pasquale. Combining the droll comic timing of a Charlie Chaplin with a booming bass that was clear and firm down to the lowest vocal depths, de Peppo created a multifaceted portrayal of the scheming title character that delineated both dim-witted foolery as well as pathos. His rapid-fire patter was delightful without ever compromising secure vocal technique or musicianship.

Norina, the score’s female protagonist, was a showcase for Roberta Peters in her prime and a late career vehicle for Beverly Sills. Laura Montes lit up the stage as a perky soubrette who turns shrewish and commanding after her faux marriage to Don Pasquale. Her comedic confrontations with de Peppo had the audience in stitches. Montes’ lovely, alluring timbre and sparkling coloratura served notice of a major talent. With her combination of glamour, deft interplay and entrancing vocalism, Montes dominated every one of her scenes.

As Ernesto, Norina’s beloved and Don Pasquale’s rebellious nephew, David Pereira revealed a lyric tenor of strength and beauty. His dulcet version of Com’e gentil and fervent reading of Ernesto’s lament, capped by a ringing high C, were propelled by a firm legato line. The evening’s vocal zenith was reached when Montes and Pereira sang their gorgeous duet in the final scene.

Despite a worn voice that was several sizes too small, Daniel Snodgrass was a charming Dr. Malatesta. His facial expressions radiated irony and his savvy patter in the famous Malatesta-Pasquale duet highlighted an evening of musico-comedic joy.

Beverly Coulter’s lively, stylish conducting had fizz aplenty coupled with idiomatic affinity for the ebb and flow of Donizetti’s elegant vocal lines. She had to contend with sloppy instrumental execution, poor wind intonation and wrong entrances. Despite a resounding solo trumpet turn in the plaintive introduction to the second act, too often the orchestral performance sounded raucous and less than professional.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats Don Pasquale 8 P.M. Saturday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Miami Lyric Opera opens season with a delightful “Don Pasquale””

  1. Posted Apr 24, 2010 at 12:11 am by Dennis

    With all due respect sir, I believe your review contains an editorial mistake regarding the baritone. I was at this performance, and the singer performing the role of Dr. Malatesta had an exceptionally beautiful VOICE; He did, however, have an ill-fitting VEST…

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Fri Apr 23, 2010
at 11:43 am
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