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Monday, March 15, 2010

Opera Review: Don Pasquale at the Regina Opera

Brooklyn's Regina Opera Company closed out its run of Donizetti's rambunctious domestic comedy Don Pasquale with a strong performance on March 14.

Luigi Lablache, the first Don Pasquale

One of the "big three" Donizetti comedies, Pasquale was written for bass Luigi Lablache in the title role. So a strong comic bass with command of the parlando style is required. Jorge Arcila filled the bill nicely, with a pleasing baritone and good acting chops. Don Pasquale, a 70-something bachelor who decides to marry just to stiff his nephew out of his inheritance is not the most sympathetic character in opera. But Arcila found the humanity behind all that hot air. His Act III duet with Dr. Malatesta (Andrew Cummings) was everything that opera buffa should be--a thrilling display of vocal pyrotechnics that thrilled the audience.

Cummings, for his part, excelled as the scheming Dr. Malatesta. His pleasing baritone and cool onstage demeanor (not to mention his towering height) made an excellent contrast to Arcila's apopleptic Don. In the key role of Ernesto, tenor Robert Arthur Hughes sang harshly at first, but warmed up to deliver some lovely arias in the third act. All three male leads had trouble being heard over the orchestra. Conductor Matthew Oberstein did his best to keep the volume down, but in a "live" room like the Regina Hall, it is a near-impossible task.

Soprano Michelle Trovato was a bundle of energy and vocal thrills as Norina. Unlike her male cast-mates, she had no trouble singing over the orchestra. As the duplicitous young widow whose sham marriage to Pasquale drives the opera's plot, Trovato delivered a balanced comic performance, handling each of the role's many facets with a diamond-sharp delivery and a voice capable of handling the most agile of passages. Mention must also be made of Linda Lehr, who made the most of the comic opportunities afforded by a mute role as the good Don's housekeeper.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.