Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" is one of those operas that transfers extremely well to both CD and DVD, so it is no surprise that it is well represented on both mediums. This latest helping from the Met, is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable and best-sung version to be issued on both DVD and Blu-ray during the last decade.
Otto Schenk's wily direction allows the comic elements of the work to resonate with deeper emotional feelings, giving this "Don" a more humane touch. Rolf Langenfass manages some quite elegantly magnificent sets and costumes, while Duane Schuler regales us with his magic wand of lighting designs.
But, what about the cast? They are mesmerizing on all counts. Anna Netrebko is a brazen and sensuous "Norina". Vocally indomitable, she carries all before her. Matthew Polenzani's "Ernesto" has grace and nobility, and the singing is consistently beautiful and assured. Marius Kwiecien has a commanding stage-presence and an impressively powerful voice, and to his credit, "Dr Malatesta" is played with conviction and a shrewd sense of balance between force and wit. John Del Carlo's "Don Pasquale" is infectiously funny, and yet there is a natural spontaneity to his portrayal that draws sympathy to the old man's inevitable plight.
The Met Orchestra, under the baton of the inimitable and charismatic James Levine, is in sizzling form, giving wholehearted support to the singers as well as revealing all the felicitous details of this overwhelmingly melodious score, giving the lie to all those who try to belittle Donizetti's orchestral ability. The Chorus performs with poise and precision despite the fact that they have little to sing. A glorious Met evening, captured in sumptuous sound and vision, which leaves a certain inner excitement that remains long after the curtain has gone down. This is a release that should not be missed.
Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech