It’s been said that the final installment of the great trio of bel canto comedies is Don Pasquale, following Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’elisir d’amore. Although the work slipped out of the standard repertoire in the later half of the 20th century, there has been a distinct upswing, including the first performance at Wiener Staatsoper in 32 years in 2015 which we’ll sample this week. Michele Pertusi takes the lead, abetted by Valentina Nafornita, Juan Diego Flórez, and Alessio Arduini, under Jesús López-Cobos.
After opening in Paris in January 1843, Don Pasquale reached La Scala later that year and by 1854 circled the globe with its Australian premiere. It is generally regarded as the high point of the 19th century opera buffa tradition and, in fact, marked its ending.
In the role created by Giulia Grisi is Moldova native Valentina Nafornita, who won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2011, the year of her Wiener Staatsoper debut in a small role in Daphne (with odd diacriticals on the last two letters of her surname, it is pronounced “na-for-NITZ-ah”). Not yet 30, she quickly graduated into roles such as Susanna, Gilda, Pamina, Zerlina, Adina, and Musetta. While centered in Wien, her career is now taking her to Salzburg, La Scala, Paris, and the major houses of Germany. Add her to the list of young singers to watch out for.