By Daniel Hathaway
“This is my first time singing Don Pasquale,” Polish-born bass Pawel Izdebski said in a recent phone conversation, “although I have done concert performances of the famous duet with Norina and the Act II Finale, so I already knew about a third of the role.
Izdebski will make his debut in the title role of Gaetano Donizetti’s famous comic opera this Friday evening at 7 and Sunday afternoon at 3, when Opera Circle joins Robert Cronquist and the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra in a staged production at the Westlake Schools Performing Arts Center. Soprano and Opera Circle executive director Dorota Sobieska will be featured as Norina, tenor Matthew Miles as Ernesto, baritone James Binion as Dr. Malatesta (a.k.a. “Dr. Headache”), and Joel Rhoads as the notary and guitarist.
There are two new wrinkles involved in this weekend’s production. Don Pasquale takes Opera Circle into a new venue in the western suburbs, and admission for students, youth and children will be free with passes (check the company’s website for details).
Coming toward the end of the list of Donizetti’s seventy-some operas, Don Pasquale was written in the space of two weeks and first staged at the Italian Theater in Paris in January of 1843. Starring a quartet of first-rate ringers, the three-act work marked both the high point and the finale of the opera buffa tradition in the nineteenth century.
Seattle Opera, a company devoted to making the twists and turns of opera stories navigable by the modern audience member, sums up the plot of Don Pasquale in less than twenty-five words: “Foolish old man makes the mistake of a lifetime when he marries a pretty young thing.” Izdebski sees parallels between his character and another role he has sung many times. “In my opinion, Don Pasquale is Donizetti’s equivalent of Baron Ochs in Rosenkavalier. Ochs is a rich Austrian aristocrat with no finesse who thinks he can get away with anything because of his money and his influence.”
(For the rest of the chat with Izdebski, click here.)