Small picture of Donizetti




Donizetti's Don Pasquale

Arizona Opera,

Tucson, January 23, 24 & 25, 2004 & Phoenix, January 29, 30, 31 & February 1, 2004

The opera was directed by David Gately with design team Harry Frehner, Tony Fanning and Helen Rodgers and the conductor was Steven White. The opera was sung in English and double cast for Norina and Ernesto.

The pictures below were provided by Tim Fuller of Arizona Opera.   

Thanks to Bette Jones for providing the comments below. The production here gives yet another setting for the opera and shows what an indestructible old war horse it is, which, with a good production and willing performers, still makes for a highly enjoyable evening.  

The setting is Old West Arizona in the 1880's, and takes place in Don Pasquale's hotel.  There is poker game going on at one of the tables, and an old drunk keeps trying to get into the hotel lobby. The director added a mute character "Hop Sing" which represented the old west Chinese houseboy which worked really well. 

One of the funniest moments is the very opening when Malatesta arrives and Pasquale says "Avanti, avanti."  The translation of that for this production was "Howdy Pardner."   Another....when Ernesto arrives at Pasquale's hotel on a horse...however, it isn't a real horse but rather a wooden one on wheels.  At the very end, the same horse is "led" in and Don Pasquale gets on it, and someone hands him his plate of spaghetti.

Ernesto's Act III serenade is accompanied by an on-stage Mariachi band (fake instruments) wearing huge sombreros and moving to the rhythm of the aria. 

Tracy Dahl was superb as Norina with great coloratura work timed impeccably with the comedy and excellent acting.  Ying Huang was less effervescent and seemed to lack the breath to carry the line.  Tracy Dahl's "Ernesto" was sung by John Tessier, who was not only handsome of body but also handsome of voice.  Good acting, solid vocal performance all the way through including sitting in the bathtub, shown below,  with just undershorts and then having to get up and wrap a towel around himself without exposing too much. This took a bit of aplomb on the part of both the tenors (and both pulled it off well).  The other Ernesto was Jesus Garcia who took a bit to get warmed up and into the part.  His acting was fine; his vocal line was weak in places, not just high notes which he accomplished well albeit a bit thin.   Matthew Lau as Don Pasquale was superb with a beautiful range and a thrilling low register as well as wonderful acting.  His patter duet with Dr. Malatesta was great, and they even encored it!   Keith Phares sang Dr. Malatesta for all performances and he, also, did a really good job.

Steven White's conducting was taut and considerate of the singers, and he paced the tempo and dynamics to make the most of sublime as well as comedic moments.  Arizona Opera's orchestra continues to be outstanding

All in all, it was a great production for American audiences, especially those of us here in the Western part of the States and, even though it may all sound a bit weird to people who do not know about the U.S.' old west, anyone who remembers the TV show "Bonanza" as well as the old western movies of John Wayne, etc. would get a kick out of the setting.


Don Pasquale (Matthew Lau) and
                       the demure, at this point, Norina (Ying Huang)

Don Pasquale and Norina 


Ernesto in his bath 

Ernesto (Jesus Garcia) singing his "Cherchero lontana terra" sitting in an old bathtub, with three "saloon girls" attending him - one is writing the letter as he "dictates" it, one is scrubbing his back, and one is pouring his drinks for him


Norina (Tracy Dahl) and
         Doctor Malatesta (Keith Phares)

Norina and Dr. Malatesta 


Norina and Ernesto 





Norina (Tracy Dahl) and Ernesto (John Tessier)











Page initially published in  2004