In this production from director Chuck Hudson set in the golden era of Hollywood, Don Pasquale is an aging silent film star at the sunset of his career. Our protagonist sets off to find a wife and heir to his fortune. He gets hitched to the devious Norina, a widowed gold digger who conspires with Ernesto, the Don’s nephew. Supported by a chorus of servants dressed as Hollywood film stars, Don Pasquale is an uproarious evening of theater.
This marks the first production of Donizetti’s bel canto jewel in The Atlanta Opera’s history. Bass-baritone Burak Bilgili, last seen in Atlanta in 2016’s Romeo & Juliet, returns in the title role.
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Librettist: Giovanni Ruffini, Gaetano Donizetti
Premiere Date: January 3, 1843
ACT I, Scene 1: A room in Don Pasquale’s house
The elderly, wealthy (and miserly) bachelor, Don Pasquale, wants his nephew, Ernesto, to marry a wealthy woman he has chosen for him, but Ernesto, who is in love with the beautiful but poor widow, Norina, refuses. The scheming Don Pasquale decides to get married himself, and asks Dr. Malatesta to find a suitable bride. The doctor agrees, but as he’s a friend of both Ernesto and Norina, he decides his ‘help’ will still allow the young couple to marry. As the Don paces nervously up and down, Maletatesta announces he has found the perfect bride and proceeds to describe her (Bella siccome un angelo — Beautiful as an angel). She is Maletatesta’s sister, Sofronia, an innocent girl raised in a convent. The enraptured Pasquale demands to meet her at once and sends Malatesta to fetch her.
Left alone, he imagines his future happiness with his wife and half a dozen children (Un foco insolito — An unusual fire). These happy musings are interrupted by Ernesto. His uncle gives him one more chance to marry the wealthy woman he has chosen, but Ernesto is determined to marry Norina. Pasquale then unloads his bombshell; he is getting married himself and Ernesto must find a new place to live! After a time, Ernesto realizes he is serious and urges him to seek the advice of Dr. Malatesta. Ernesto is dumbfounded to learn that Malatesta encouraged the marriage and provided his sister as the bride-to-be.
Act I, Scene 2: Norina’s house
While reading a story of how a woman’s glance captured a knight, Norina boasts that she too knows the magic of such a glance (So anch’io la virtù magica — I also know the magic power). She is waiting for Dr. Malatesta to help plot her marriage to Ernesto. A letter arrives from the oblivious Ernesto. Believing his uncle, he writes that they must give up their love and that he is leaving Rome that very day. Malatesta arrives and explains his idea to Norina. She is to pretend to be his sister, a shy, simple girl (he really does have a sister Sofronia, in a convent). Don Pasquale will fall madly in love with her, and his cousin will perform a fake ceremony (Pronta son io — I am ready). He coaches her on her behavior, and they gleefully anticipate the results of their trick (Vado, corro — I am hurrying).
ACT II: Don Pasquale’s house
Ernesto bemoans his fate and vows go far away. Although that will not erase Norina from his heart, he will be satisfied if she is happy (Cercherò lontana terra — I will seek a distant land). He leaves as Don Pasquale enters, followed by Dr. Malatesta and a heavily veiled “Sofronia”. She pretends to be terrified but constantly utters scornful asides. When her veil is removed, Pasquale is so overwhelmed by her beauty, gentleness and pliability, he immediately demands a wedding. The “notary” arrives and a marriage contract is drawn up in which the besotted Pasquale promises her half of everything he possesses. She will also be the absolute mistress of the house. They are about to sign when Ernesto appears. He still has not been told of the plan and is furious at the scene that greets him. Norina and Malatesta manage to signal him to go along with the charade, and all sign the contract. Immediately the shy, docile Sofronia is gone, replaced by a shrew who prevents her new ‘husband’ from embracing her. She declares Pasquale is too old and too fat to take her out; Ernesto will be a more appropriate escort. She orders more servants (young, good-looking ones), a pair of carriages with horses, furniture, clothing, a dinner party for fifty, etc. Pasquale protests in vain, he is no longer the master of the house, merely a peasant bumpkin and a boor. Furiously, he realizes he has been played for a fool.
ACT III: Don Pasquale’s house
Servants bustle about, and a despairing Pasquale peruses the bills. Norina is going to the theatre, and when he protests, she tells him to keep his mouth shut and go to bed. In response, he threatens divorce. As she leaves, she coyly drops a letter which arranges an assignation for that evening.
Ernesto and Malatesta discuss the rest of their plan. Ernesto will be the man Sofronia meets in the garden. After he leaves, Pasquale returns and tells Malatesta he is desperate to end the marriage, even if it means allowing Ernesto to marry his Norina. Once again, Malatesta is willing to ‘help’. He and the Don will hide in the garden to observe the meeting. If Sofronia proves to be unfaithful, Pasquale will be able to throw her out. In the garden, Ernesto sings of the evening, begging his love to come to him (Com’è gentil — How lovely). When Norina appears, they sing of their love (Tornami a dir — Tell me again). Pasquale and Malatesta try to confront the couple, but Ernesto has disappeared, and Norina swears he was never there. Once more Malatesta is called on to help and to persuade his ‘sister’ to leave. The doctor makes utterances loud enough for Don Pasquale to hear (she had better leave; tomorrow a new wife will come to the house, Ernesto’s wife Norina) and other things, sotto voce, for her alone (telling her to pretend to fly into a rage). She agrees to go provided that Don Pasquale will allow the marriage of the young people. When Ernesto arrives, Don Pasquale tells him he is now in favor of the marriage, and he should fetch his Norina. But the bride is already there; Sofronia is Norina! Malatesta’s real sister is still at the convent. They all ask his pardon for the trick they have played, and Don Pasquale ruefully says he got what he deserved. They all agree that an old man who marries is looking for trouble (La morale in tutto questo — the moral of all this).
Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.
Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.
What to Wear
There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.
Arriving in Good Time
If you are late, you will be escorted to the nearest late seating area. At intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.
Our elegant three course dining at the Cobb Energy Center is seated on the mezzanine before every performance. Please make reservations 5 business days prior to the performance.
Learn about the history of the opera and the composer with board member and opera aficionado, Carter Joseph. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!
Familiarizing Yourself with the Story
Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.
Actors ﬁrst audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.
Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.
Sets & Costumes
The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.
Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal
The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.
Gaetano Donizetti was born November 29, 1797 in Bergamo, Italy. He, Bellini and Rossini were the three great masters of the opera style known as bel canto . Bel canto operas had set numbers of separate arias and ensembles that featured particularly florid vocal writing designed to show off the human voice to maximum effect. These works demanded great virtuosity from the singers and served as star vehicles for leading operatic performers. Donizetti dominated the Italian opera scene during the years between Bellini’s death and Verdi’s rise to fame after Nabucco.
Donizetti’s musical talents were apparent at an early age, and he was admitted to the Lezioni Caritatevoli school on full scholarship when he was nine years old. The school was founded by Simon Mayr, who had a significant influence upon Donizetti’s musical development and helped the young composer launch his professional career. Mayr sent Donizetti to Padre Stanislao Mattei, the teacher of Rossini, for further compositional instruction. Mayr also partially paid for the lessons with Mattei and arranged for Bartolomeo Merelli to write the librettos for Donizetti’s early stage works.
Between 1817 and 1821, Donizetti received several commissions from Paolo Zanca. His first staged opera was Enrico di Borgogna in 1818. He wrote several other works during this period, including chamber and church music as well as opera. It was the success of his fourth opera, Zoraide di Grenata, that caught the attention of Domenico Barbaia, the most important theater manager of his time. Barbaia offered Donizetti a contract. The young composer accepted it and moved to Naples, which was Barbaia’s primary business location. For the next eight years Donizetti wrote works for Rome and Milan as well as Naples, with mixed success. It was not until 1830, with the performances of Anna Bolena in Milan, that Donizetti achieved international fame.
Donizetti was a prolific composer, writing both comic and serious operas as well as solo vocal music. Throughout his career he battled with the powerful Italian censors to put his works on stage. Two of his best-known comedies, L’elisir d’amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843), are considered masterpieces of comic opera and continue to hold their places in the standard performing repertoire. Perhaps his most famous serious opera is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), although Anna Bolena has enjoyed considerable success in this century through the efforts of such artists as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. Donizetti was well acquainted with the greatest singers of his day, and he created many of the roles in his operas for their specific vocal talents.
As Donizetti’s fame grew, he was able to accept of variety of engagements, writing operas for Paris as well as the famous opera houses of Italy. He relocated to Paris in 1838. It was there that he composed La fille du régimentrégiment in 1840, which is still frequently performed. Donizetti was also appointed music director for the Italian opera season at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, a position secured for him by Mirelli, the librettist for his early works.
Donizetti was a friendly and sincere man, supportive of fellow composers and other artists, and loyal to his long-time mentor Mayr. Unfortunately, he endured great tragedy in his personal life. Donizetti had met his wife Virginia Vasselli while he was in Rome in the 1820’s and married her in 1828. They had three children, none of whom survived. His parents died in the mid 1830s. A year after his parents’ death, his wife succumbed to a cholera epidemic. Donizetti himself suffered from cerebro-spinal syphilis. Symptoms of his illness became evident as early as 1843; by 1845 his condition deteriorated to the point that he was institutionalized for almost a year and a half. His friend from Vienna, Baron Lannoy, interceded with Donizetti’s nephew to have the composer moved to a Paris apartment where he could be cared for and receive visitors. Verdi came to see him there and was deeply saddened by his colleague’s condition. Friends in Bergamo finally arranged for Donizetti to be brought back to his home town, where he stayed at Baroness Scotti’s palace until his death in 1848.
Donizetti was reputed to have great facility and could compose very quickly. His favorite librettist was Salvadore Cammarano, with whom he first collaborated on Lucia di Lammermoor . Donizetti often assisted in writing the librettos for his operas. He completed 65 operas during his career; L’elisir d’amore , Don Pasquale , and Lucia di Lammermoor are generally considered the outstanding examples of his work. His compositional style proved influential for future Italian opera composers, most notably Verdi.
Based in New York City, Chuck has directed opera productions at major international companies including Cape Town Opera (South Africa), Cincinnati Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Sacramento Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Opera Cleveland, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera Center, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, among others.
In addition to directing professional artists, Chuck continues to focus on his work with artists in training. He was a co-creator of Seattle Opera’s Young Artist Program where he directed productions as well as created and instructed specialized classes on Acting and Movement for singers. Chuck has directed productions at San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Artist Program, Florida Grand Opera’s Resident Artist Program, IU Opera Theatre, CCM Opera Theatre, AVA Opera Theater, BU Opera Institute, USC-Thornton Opera, Music Academy of the West, Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts, Carnegie-Mellon Opera Theatre, and Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater.
Chuck’s specialty in movement comes from a background in gymnastics as well as being one of three Americans to have received a diploma from the Marcel Marceau International School of Mimedrama in Paris. He is the only American to be appointed to teach at Marceau’s School, and he performed with Marceau on his 1991 European Tour and in Klaus Kinski’s film Paganini. Chuck also studied at the Paris School for Theatrical Fencing and was awarded an Honorary Diploma from the French Academy of Arms.
Renowned for his versatility, musical depth, and ability to “inspire musicians”, Joseph Colaneri is recognized as a multifaceted presence on the podium. An international conductor equally adept with operatic, oratorio and symphonic repertoire, Colaneri continues to expand his relationships with orchestras and opera companies both nationally and abroad. Colaneri is currently the Music Director at Glimmerglass Festival. Colaneri first worked with Glimmerglass in 2009 as conductor for La Cenerentola, and recently led productions of Bernstein’s Candide and Verdi’s Macbeth.
In addition to his work with Glimmerglass, Colaneri has served as a member of the Metropolitan conducting roster since 1998. Colaneri served as Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera in Perth from 2012-2014. He also serves as Artistic Director of Opera at Mannes School of Music at The New School in New York City. During the 2015-16 season, Colaneri led productions of Puccini’s Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera during the fall and Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore in the spring. Colaneri made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera with a performance of La bohème in fall 2000.
Also in demand as an opera conductor abroad, among the distinguished companies with which Colaneri has guested are Den Norske Opera, Portland Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Orlando Opera, UCLA, and the San Francisco Opera Center. Orchestras with which he has guested include the Tokyo Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Chautauqua Symphony.