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Gaetano Donizetti

Donizetti - DON PASQUALE 

Don Pasquale: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Norina: Nuccia Focile
Ernesto: Gregory Kunde
Malatesta: Lucio Gallo
Un notario: Claudio Giombi

Director: Ricardo Muti
Teatro alla Scala1994

Don Pasquale is an opera buffa, or comic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti with an Italian libretto completed largely by Giovanni Ruffini as well as the composer. It was based on a libretto by Angelo Anelli for Stefano Pavesi's opera Ser Marcantonio written in 1810 but, on the published libretto, the author appears as "M.A."

Donizetti so dominated the preparation of the libretto that Ruffini refused to allow his name to be put on the score. This resulted in confusion over the identity of the librettist for more than half a century,[2] but as Herbert Weinstock establishes, it was largely Ruffini's work and, in withholding his name from it as librettist, "Donizetti or [his assistant]‌ Accursi may have thought that, lacking Ruffini's name, the authorship might as well be assigned to Accursi's initials as to a pseudonym".

The opera was first performed on 3 January 1843 by the Théâtre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour in Paris with great success and it is generally regarded as being the high point of the 19th century opera buffa tradition and, in fact, marking its ending.



Opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti with libretto in Italian, prepared, probably in collaboration, by the composer and “Michele Ac-cursi" (pseudonym for Giacomo Ruffini) on the basis of Angelo Anelli’s libretto for Ser Marc’ Antonio, a once popular work by Stefano Pavesi

DON PASQUALE, an old bachelor
DR. MALATESRA, his friend
ERNESTO, nephew of Don Pasquale
NORINA, a young widow


Time: early lgth century
Place: Rome

First performance at Paris, January 3, 1843




Soprano. Wealthy young lady who owns a farm. She finds the courting of the peasant Nemorino rather slow and in order to tease him she flirts with the soldier Belcore. When she sees other girls running after Nemorino, she becomes more aware of his attractions and confesses that she loves him. Duet (with Nemorino): Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera (‘Ask of the welcoming breeze’); duets (with Dulcamara): Io son ricco, tu sei bella (‘I am rich and you are lovely’); Quanto amore (‘What great love’). Created (1832) by Sabina Heinefetter.

Song of the opera " L'elisir d'amore ", recorded in 2005. Led by Anna Netrebko (Adina), Rolando Villazón (Nemorino) and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (Dulcamara).

Anna Netrebko as Adina

Don Pasquale:


Don ( Donizetti : Don Pasquale ). Bass. An elderly bachelor, he disapproves of his heir, his nephew Ernesto, having a relationship with Norina, a poor young widow. He decides to marry, produce a direct heir, and disinherit Ernesto. But Norina is Malatesta's niece and he sets out to trick Pasquale into giving his consent to the young couple's marriage. Malatesta produces the ideal bride for Pasquale, his demure ‘sister Sofronia’ (Norina) and a Notary (his cousin) to marry them. Pasquale soon wishes he'd remained a bachelor, as ‘Sofronia's’ nature changes totally after their marriage. When he catches his ‘wife’ and her lover (Ernesto) together in the garden he is only too anxious to agree to annul his marriage and give his blessing to the union of Norina and Ernesto. Aria: Un foco insolito mi sento addosso (‘I’m in the grip of an unaccustomed fever’); duet (with Malatesta): Cheti, cheti, immantinente (‘Ever so quickly, we’ll do down’). Created (1843) by Luigi Lablache (whose son Federico, created the Notary).

Don Pasquale, Act 1: "Ah, un foco insolito mi sento addosso" · Gaetano Donizetti · József Gregor

Dr. Malatesta:

Baritone. Physician and friend of Don Pasquale, who consults him about getting married and producing an heir so he can disinherit his nephew Ernesto, who wants to marry Malatesta's niece Norina, of whom Pasquale disapproves. The doctor and Norina conspire to trick Pasquale, Norina posing as Malatesta's ‘sister Sofronia’ and ‘marrying’ Pasquale (in a false ceremony conducted by a ‘Notary’, Malatesta's nephew). Malatesta then helps Pasquale to catch his ‘wife’ and her ‘lover’ (Ernesto) together and the doctor convinces Pasquale he should annul his marriage, return to a life of peace and allow the young couple to wed. Aria: Bella siccome un’ angelo (‘Beautiful as an angel’). Created (1843) by Antonio Tamburini.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky - "Bella siccome un angelo" (Don Pasquale)



Tenor. Nephew of Don Pasquale, he is in love with Norina, of whom his uncle disapproves. He is therefore about to be disinherited. Pasquale is tricked into a totally unsuitable fake marriage and, only too glad to be freed from it, consents to Norina and Ernesto's union. Arias: Cercherò lontana terra (‘Looking for a distant land’); Com’ è gentil la notte a mezzo april! (‘How gentle is the night in mid‐April!’). Created (1843) by Giovanni Matteo Mario (a lifelong companion of Giulia Grisi, the soprano who created Norina).

Luciano Pavarotti-Com'e gentil



Soprano. A young widow, the niece of Dr Malatesta. She is in love with Ernesto, Pasquale's nephew, but Pasquale disapproves of their relationship. She plots with Malatesta to trick Pasquale. She poses as Malatesta's demure sister Sofronia and ‘marries’ Pasquale in a fake ceremony. After the wedding she becomes a harridan, spending all his money and dominating him—he can't wait to return to peaceful bachelorhood. She deliberately drops a note where Pasquale will find it, and he learns that she is meeting her ‘lover’(Ernesto). He catches them together in the garden. He agrees to annul their marriage and offers his blessing on the young couple. Arias: So anch'io la virtù magica (‘I also know the magic virtue’). Created (1843) by Giulia Grisi (lifelong companion of G. M. Mario, the tenor who created Ernesto).

Don Pasquale: "So anch'io la virtù magica" --
Anna Netrebko




Query to conductors of symphony orchestras: why don’t you ever list this piece on either serious or “pops” programs? It contains some of the opera’s very best tunes, and it has a pretty, if conventional, shape. Most audiences would love it.


Scene 1 The scene is Rome; the time is the early nineteenth century; and the central character is a standard figure in old comedy—the aged, wealthy bachelor who wants to get married. He is fair game for anyone, and his name, this time, is Don Pasquale. This Don has a nephew, his only heir, whose name is Ernesto. When the opera opens, Pasquale, pacing up and down in his living room, is planning a nasty surprise for the youngster. Presently the Don’s old friend, Dr. Malatesta, joins him. Malatesta has found what Pasquale wants—a beautiful young girl to be his bride, and he proceeds to describe her in the aria Bella siccome un angelo—“Just as beautiful as an angel.” Who is she? Why, she is Malatesta’s sister. Pasquale is so delighted that he ignores Malatesta’s warnings about hurrying into marriage. Instead, he pushes his friend from the house and demands that this paragon be brought to him at once. Then he has a foolish soliloquy in which he already imagines himself the father of six!

Now enter the juvenile lead, young Ernesto. In their discussion it comes out that the old man has found a beautiful and wealthy lady for Ernesto to marry. But Ernesto has refused—and he refuses again. For (like any good light tenor in an Italian opera) he is deeply in love and faithful to the one and only—his Norina. This angers the old fellow all over again. He threatens to turn Ernesto out of his house, and finally he tells him that he is about to get married himself. This, of course, is terrible news for Ernesto. Now he will be disinherited, and he will be unable to marry his Norina. In a duet made up of contrasts, Ernesto bewails this sad state of affairs while Pasquale gloats over it. But before he leaves, Ernesto offers one word of advice: “Do not get married without consulting someone else—say, Dr. Malatesta.” Gleefully Pasquale allows that he has already done so, and that he intends to marry the doctor's own sister. Poor Ernesto now feels that he has been betrayed by Malatesta, the one man he has always trusted.

Scene 2 finds Norina in her room reading a romantic novel and singing sweetly on matters of love. She congratulates herself that, like the heroine in her book, she also is well versed in the arts of amour. An especially tender love scene in the novel, which she reads aloud to herself, inspires her to sing the charming aria Quel guardo, il cavdiere. Following this, a letter is brought, which Norina knows in a moment to be from Ernesto. Just as she finishes reading it, Dr. Malatesta rushes in to tell her his plan will be successful. But Norina hands him the letter from Ernesto. Malatesta reads it aloud and learns that the young man is brokenhearted. He calls Malatesta a villain, claims that he will be disinherited because of Pasquale's marriage to Norina, and threatens to leave Rome and Europe as soon as possible.

Malatesta quickly exonerates himself. He promises that Ernesto will be only too happy to remain when he hears his new plan. What is this plan? Why, simply to pass off Norina (whom Pasquale has not yet seen) as his sister Sofronia, who is really in a convent. Pasquale, he is sure, will happily consent to the marriage, and Malatesta's cousin, Carlotto, will act as notary and perform a mock marriage. Norina will then make life so miserable for Pasquale that he will be desperate to get away.

Malatesta and Norina then sing an amusing duet in which he coaches her in her new role. She must learn to act like a shy country girl one minute, but like a real shrew the next. The scene ends with these two reveling in the thought of revenge on selfish old Pasquale.


Back in Don Pasquale’s house a very sad and downhearted Ernesto delivers himself of the dramatic aria Cercherd lontana terra. Believing that he is disinherited and that he has lost his Norina forever, he resolves to go far away, to end his days in sorrow and remorse. He will be happy only in the thought that Norina is happy: this will make his sorrow bearable. And off he goes (but not very far).

Now, Pasquale enters. Dismissing his servant, he struts about admiring his “fine figure.” “Not bad for someone aged seventy,” he murmurs to himself—but he carefully makes sure that no one is around to hear his age!

Then Malatesta arrives to present timid and veiled Norina. The two old men sing a charming trio with the girl, she pretending to be frightened and on the verge of fainting, Malatesta consoling her and telling her to be brave, and Pasquale expressing delight, but wondering whether the face under the veil will prove to be as lovely as the rest.

Norina plays expertly her part of a shy young girl fresh from a convent. All of her naive answers to the old Don's questions delight him, and she is finally persuaded to lift her veil. Needless to say, Pasquale is overwhelmed. He proposes; she accepts; Malatesta goes off to fetch the notary; and the marriage contract is drawn up. It is, of course, a counterfeit contract.

But it seems that a witness is necessary. And who should that witness be? Why, Ernesto, who just happens to be in the other room. And a very angry Ernesto he is, for he has not yet been told Malatesta’s plan, and, to add insult to injury, he has been almost thrown out of the house by the servants when all he wanted to do was say good-by. Malatesta, however, draws Emesto aside and tells him of the fake contract. Somewhat calmed by the news, he consents to go through with the farce. The document is signed, and the notary leaves. Naturally, at this point there is a perfect opportunity for a quartet. The emotions expressed go something like this: Norina is worried lest Emesto lose his temper and give the plot away; Emesto thinks he will go mad from confusion; Malatesta begs him to believe in him; and Don Pasquale smugly observes that he deal more gently with his nephew. Finally the ceremony is completed and the papers are signed.

Now the fireworks really begin. Suddenly, according to plan, Norina becomes a shrew. She pushes Pasquale away when he tries to embrace her and tells him he is too old even to take her walking. Emesto, she says, will do that! Next, she proceeds to try to rain Pasquale. She orders the present servants’ salaries to be doubled and tells the major-domo to hire at least twenty-four more immediately. Furthermore, they must all be young and handsome. Nor does she stop here, but then and there orders a new carriage and new furniture. Meanwhile Pasquale moans and groans that he will be rained. Norina ignores him and keeps right on, saying that the thousand other items can be taken care of next day. The delighted Emesto and Malatesta congratulate each other; Pasquale bemoans his fate; and the quartet comes to a grand climax as the curtain falls.


Scene 1 finds Don Pasquale virtually tearing out his hair. Norina, his supposed new wife, has ordered all sorts of finery, and poor Pasquale is going over the bills. As he does this, the servants keep on delivering more and more things. Norina grandly enters and, without a glance at Pasquale, blithely announces that she is going to the opera. Pasquale tries to block her way and is rudely rebuffed. “Old men should go to bed early,” says the vindictive Norina. She shoves him away, flings one last insult at him, and merrily goes off, accidentally on purpose dropping a letter, which he picks up and reads. It is a love letter to “Dearest Sofronia” and specifies a time and a place in the garden for an assignation. Furious, Pasquale sends a note to Malatesta to tell him that he is sick, and then he staggers out of the room.

Now the servants take over. They are delirious with happiness, they say; for while there is not a moment’s peace, what does that matter when there is so much money to be got? They finish up by warning each other to be careful. That way they will be able to keep on working in this fine house.

When the servants leave, Malatesta and Ernesto appear. They are discussing Ernesto’s forthcoming rendezvous, for it was Ernesto, of course, who wrote the love letter. It is agreed that Ernesto is to disappear the moment Malatesta arrives with Pasquale. As Ernesto rushes off, Pasquale enters complaining bitterly. He wishes Ernesto had married Norina, he says. His “wife” has squandered his fortune, and now she is planning a rendezvous with a lover. And in his own gardenl Malatesta, reading the letter, pretends to be appalled, and Pasquale swears revenge. In a very amusing duet Malatesta proposes his own plan. “Surprise them in the garden,” he says. “Threaten to expose them. And,” he adds, “faced with public disgrace, they are sure to give each other up.” Pasquale is sure this treatment is too lenient. He agrees, however, to send his wife away if she is guilty, while Malatesta ironically promises that he will make sure she is properly handled after that.

Scene 2 takes place in the garden, on a perfect spring night. Our hero is heard singing one of the most beautiful arias in the opera (Com’ k gentil), and the chorus joins in occasionally, answering Ernesto as he sings of his passion. (Incidentally, at the first dress rehearsal of this opera, everyone thought it might fail. Donizetti went home; he found this serenade in a drawer; he gave it to the leading tenor; and on opening night it was the hit of the show.) When it is over, Norina joins Ernesto, and now only one thing is possible—a glorious duet ( Tornamia dir che m’ami). As their song of longing and loving ends, Pasquale and Malatesta are seen coming toward them, and Ernesto escapes into the house according to the agreement. Norina pretends to be horrified as Pasquale demands to know where her lover is and starts searching with pretended help from Malatesta.

Foiled in finding her lover, Pasquale tells Norina to leave his house, but she pertly reminds him that it is her house. Malatesta interrupts them and reminds Pasquale of his promise to let him handle things. He takes Norina aside and quietly instructs her on just how to behave. Aloud he announces that another bride is to enter the house on the morrow. She is to be Ernesto’s wife, the widow Norina. Now Pasquale’s pretended wife pretends real anger. She swears she will never live under the same roof with this Norina and even demands proof that the new marriage is to be a real one. Ernesto is called and is told that his uncle has approved of his marriage to Norina. For appearance’s sake Norina objects, and this, naturally, makes old Pasquale demand the marriage even more strongly. He asks to see the proposed bride. “She is already here,” says Malatesta, and leads Norina to him. The plot is then made clear to Pasquale by Malatesta. The poor Don, confused and angry, denounces them all. However, there is good in everyone, even in a selfish old rogue, and he finally gives in to Norina and Ernesto, who are on their knees to him. He puts his arms around them, and Malatesta’s words Bravo, bravo, Don Pasquale introduce one last quartet in which they all moralize on the foolishness of an old man who marries a young girl, for it can only bring trouble.

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