This month will conclude with the third production in the 2016–17 season of the San Francisco Opera. These will be the first performances of Gaetano Donizetti’s sly comic opera Don Pasquale after a 32-year absence from the SFO repertoire. This production, which is shared with Santa Fe Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, will also mark the return of stage director Laurent Pelly, who made his SFO debut in 2009 with a delightful approach to Donizetti’s La fille du régiment (the daughter of the regiment).
While Donizetti tends to be better known for the high drama of his “historical” operas, he had a real flair for madcap comedy that makes him the logical successor to Gioachino Rossini. By the time Don Pasquale was first performed at the beginning of 1843, Donizetti had already enjoyed success with L’elisir d’amore (the elixir of love), first performed in 1832, and La fille du régiment, first performed in 1840. The success of Don Pasquale may have been due in part to the familiarity of the plot, an old miser (the title character) deciding to take a young wife to make sure that his dissolute young nephew Ernesto does not inherit his wealth. What Pasquale does not realize is that the woman he has selected, Norina, is in love with Ernesto. Over the course of three acts, Ernesto and Norina, with the assistance of Pasquale’s physician, Dr. Malatesta, manage to turn Pasquale’s world upside down, a metaphor that Pelly decided to take literally in his staging.
The title role will be sung by Italian bass-baritone Maurizio Muraro, no stranger to madcap comedy, since his last SFO performance was in the role of Doctor Bartolo in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. American tenor Lawrence Brownlee will be making his SFO debut in the role of Ernesto, while American soprano Heidi Stober will complete the triangle in the role of Norina. The role of Malatesta will be shared American baritones Lucas Meachem and Edward Nelson. The conductor will be Giuseppe Finzi, and Ian Robertson will prepare the SFO Chorus.
Don Pasquale will be given six performances at 7:30 p.m. on September 28 and October 4, 7, 12, and 15 and at 2 p.m. on October 2. Nelson’s performances of Malatesta will take place on October 4 and 7, and all other performances will be by Meachem. Performances will take place at the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. Single tickets are priced from $26 to $417. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFO Web site that provides hyperlinks for each performance. Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office in the outer lobby of the Opera House. Standing room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance. They are sold for $10, cash only.
Don Pasquale will also be given an Insight Panel. This provides members of both the cast and the creative team to share their thoughts on preparing this production. Time is left at the end of the discussion for a Q&A with the audience. The entire event is one hour, and it will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, September 26. The venue will be Herbst Theatre at 401 Van Ness Avenue, on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Admission is free for SFO members, subscribers, and students with valid identification. The charge for all others is $5. Pre-registration (including for those who do not have to pay) can be arranged through an Eventbrite event page.