The Cleveland Opera

Don Pasquale

by Gaetano Donizetti

June 2023

Location TBA

About

This full production is a delightful comedy; featuring soloists, chorus, orchestra, costumes, sets, and supertitles to translate the original Italian text into English.

Fun for the whole family!

The Story

Setting: Rome, nineteenth century

Act I

Scene One: Don Pasquale's house

After many, many years of happy bachelorhood, Don Pasquale has decided to marry. This decision was a reaction to his nephew Ernesto's intentions to marry Norina, a young widow of whom Pasquale disapproves. If Pasquale marries, his estate will be left to his new wife and Ernesto will be left out. Thus, Pasquale's marriage provides a neat ruse to disinherit Ernesto for his imprudent plans to marry Norina.

Dr. Malatesta (which literally means Dr. "Headache") knows the old man is being foolish, but the doctor also realizes how stubborn Pasquale can be. To keep him from making a mistake by marrying, Malatesta feigns support of the ridiculous plan and, since Pasquale has no one in particular in mind, proposes that his "sister" be the bride. He describes her as a naive, timid girl, the model of innocence, raised in a convent. The impatient bachelor eagerly accepts. As Malatesta slips away to continue his scheming, Pasquale chatters about the large family he is going to have. Ernesto enters; Pasquale sternly lectures his nephew. During the lecture he informs Ernesto that he proposes to take a wife. Amused at first, Ernesto's merriment turns to dismay when he realizes Pasquale is serious. The despairing young man renounces love, Norina, and his faith in people. Pasquale is triumphant.

Scene Two: Norina's backyard, shortly afterward

Norina receives a letter from Ernesto saying that he is leaving Europe because of Pasquale's and Malatesta's disloyalty. Malatesta reveals to Norina his scheme and persuades Norina to pose as his simpering sister, Sofronia Malatesta, a role she rehearses with gusto. Although Norina realizes how important it is that Ernesto not lose the inheritance from his uncle, she swears she will never be unfaithful to Ernesto while she carries out the plan.

Act II

Scene One: Don Pasquale's garden

Ernesto, ignorant of Malatesta's scheme, bewails the prospective loss of Norina and prepares to leave for distant parts to live out his life in sorrow and loneliness.

Scene Two: Don Pasquale's house

Pasquale receives his prospective bride and her sponsor, Malatesta. She is shy, Malatesta urges her on, and the husband-to-be watches each maneuver totally enraptured. Eventually persuaded to speak, Norina assures him that she only enjoys the things of the household—sewing, cooking, etc. Arranged by Malatesta, a notary is summoned, and Malatesta dictates the contract. Another witness is necessary. Ernesto rushes in, proclaiming his betrayal to all who will listen. Without revealing the plot to Pasquale, Malatesta explains the situation to Ernesto, who consents to be the witness.

The moment the marriage contract is signed, the timid bride suddenly becomes a raging tigress. She takes over the household completely (a right given to her in the cunningly contrived contract) and refuses to embrace her "husband." She calls the servants, doubles the salary of the head steward, and orders the hiring of more servants and the purchase of new furniture. Pasquale declares that he has been tricked. Malatesta advises him to go to bed. The act closes in a general uproar.

Act III

Scene One: Don Pasquale's house, that evening

The house is now filled with servants, a hairdresser, Norina's new wardrobe, new furniture, and above all, bills. Norina and Pasquale argue, and she leaves for the theater, alone. Before she leaves, she takes care to drop a note from a "lover," arranging a rendezvous with her in Pasquale's garden. In despair, Pasquale enlists the aid of Malatesta to catch Norina in the secret meeting with her lover, a role willingly played by Ernesto.

Scene Two: Don Pasquale's garden

Pasquale and Malatesta confront Norina in the garden while Ernesto, who has been serenading his beloved, slips into the house. Thoroughly sick of his bride by this time, Pasquale orders her to leave his house. She refuses. When Ernesto enters, Pasquale gives him permission to marry Norina and promises him an annuity as well. Upon discovering that his bride Sofronia and Ernesto's fiancee are one and the same, Pasquale is content to let the young lovers marry, out of sheer relief in ending his own harrowing marriage ordeal.