Sunday, 1 November 2015

26 October 2015, Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne ****


The three major opera touring companies in this country (and there ought to be more: how about it ENO?) all stick to the basic pattern of touring three productions at a time. Amongst these there is usually at least one revival. This tends to be something from the mainstream repertoire which proved popular the first time round. Trouble is, these revivals can look a bit tired, and come across as something of a make-weight. It was one such production, a distinctly lack-lustre and below-par Carmen by WNO about eighteen months ago which gave birth to this blog.

Glyndebourne’s trio for this Autumn’s tour consists of two block-busters from this year’s festival: Barrie Kosky’s highly successful adaptation of Handel’s Saul, the well-regarded Die Entfürung aus dem Serail, and this revival of the 2011 production of Don Pasquale. So is the Donizetti the weak link? No it is not, I am glad to report. This was a strong production when it first appeared. There was the inspired direction of Mariame Clément which wrings every last drop of daftness and sheer silliness from this archetypal opera buffa; there was the ingenious revolving set by Julia Hansen which adds to the humour; and there was Danielle de Niese as Norina, a role she seems to have been born to make her own.

For the revival the production has, with the help of Revival Director Paul Higgins, scrubbed up very nicely. We don’t have de Niese of course, but we do have the young Eliana Pretorian, a prodigiously talented Romanian soprano with wonderful comic timing and a very secure coloratura. The small cast works very effectively as an ensemble, not least Anna-Marie Sullivan as the put-upon and ill-used servant who gives a masterclass in the art of reacting to hilarious effect.

We do not feel short changed in the music department either. The LPO gives way to the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra which one assumes is an ad hoc collection of freelancers. But under the direction of Duncan Ward, they give a spirited and well shaded accompaniment to what turned out to be a very enjoyable and satisfying.

A word of advice. Catch the tour when it is actually touring: Glyndebourne on a chilly October evening can be a bit grim.

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