This DVD was first released in 2003, and for some reason, now it has been released for a second time. I am not sure what, if anything, has been changed in the interim. At any rate, I think this is the only Don Pasquale on DVD, with the exception of a film, made in 1955 by Italian television and starring Italo Tajo, Alda Noni, Cesare Valletti, and Sesto Bruscantini. (I haven't seen it, but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?)
Recorded live in what seems to be a rather small theater – I have no problem with that – this is a traditional production of Don Pasquale : no one dresses like a gangster, sits in a highchair, or crawls on the ground like a cockroach. Director Stefano Vizioli doesn't allow anyone or anything to stand still for a single moment, however. Every phrase is accompanied by some sort of business or an exaggerated facial expression. In other words, this is a very fidgety Don Pasquale. If the singers had been natural comedians, this might have worked, but as they are not, the acting often looks forced. This forced quality is exacerbated by the camera-work, which favors close-ups on the singers.
If you can get around the hyperactivity of this production, the music-making itself offers considerable enjoyment. Corbelli's Pasquale really delivers the goods, not just in the many buffo pages, but in more poignant ones as well. No matter how fast he sings, or how silly he acts, vocal values are not compromised. Roberto de Candia's Malatesta is only slightly less good; next to Corbelli, his singing seems weak, but elsewhere, he has an excellent grasp on the style. It's this production's Ernesto that really got my attention, however. Antonino (I've also seen "Antonio") Siragusa is a model tenore di grazia, more plaintive than comical, with a bright, forward sound that never grates on the ears. My pulse went up every time that he sang. He has a nice stage presence too. Eva Mei's Norina is hardly a disappointment, but I don't think she has the right voice for this role: it is too large. (Again, Alda Noni was close to ideal.) I understand that Patrizia Ciofi alternated with Mei in this particular production, and I would rather have heard and seen Ciofi than Mei. (The 31-minute bonus on this CD contains a few very brief excerpts of Ciofi's Norina.) Korsten's conducting fizzes and sparkles without buckling or breaking the score's fragile charm.
The bonus appears to have been made for an arts program on Italian television. It is not remarkably interesting, unless you like bits and pieces of rehearsal footage, and some not very enlightening statements by the director and several of the singers.
The sound (the three usual formats) and picture (16:9) are first-class. The English subtitles are only acceptable, though. They would have been better if there had been fewer misspellings, and if no attempt had been made to translate the words of two or more characters on the same screen. That's always confusing. I also didn't need a translation of the chorus' contribution to "Com'è gentil," as "lalalalala" is more or less the same in English as it is in Italian!
Copyright © 2007, Raymond Tuttle