After a two-part jukebox prima donna blowout, this week “Trove Thursday” goes modest with Donizetti’s domestic comedy Don Pasquale featuring Ileana Cotrubas, Alfredo Kraus, Vicente Sardinero and Wladimiro Ganzarolli.
If this cast doesn’t quite achieve the legendary status of that of this work’s world premiere—Grisi, Mario, Tamburini and Lablanche—it beautifully conveys Pasquale’s irresistible charm and occasional pathos. After its starry origin in Paris Donizetti’s 64th(!) opera quickly became a repertory staple although it’s perhaps not quite as beloved as his other comic masterpiece L’Elisir d’Amore.
Cotrubas brings to Norina a subtle wit and warmth one doesn’t always encounter particularly when the role is sung by the usual steely soubrette. She didn’t record Pasquale and this is the only “pirate” of her as Norina that I’ve ever run into. This run of performances were her second in Chicago and came a year after her debut there as Mimi and several years before her Met debut also as Mimi.
The Romanian soprano was to have sung Norina at the Met in 1980, the first revival of the production mounted for Beverly Sills’s farewell, but she cancelled and was replaced with less interesting, more conventional casting—Roberta Peters and Gail Robinson.
Kraus was the Ernesto the first time I heard Pasquale: a delightful broadcast early in my Met Saturday afternoon habit opposite Reri Grist and the inevitable Fernando Corena. Although Kraus did the Pasquale commercial recording with Sills and got the Met telecast and radio broadcast, the Ernesto when that production premiered was another aging juvenile, Nicolai Gedda.
Besides Gemma di Vergy with Adriana Maliponte, some have noticed that “Trove Thursday” has otherwise ignored serious Donizetti operas—probably because I don’t much care for them. Plus they have been performed in these parts all too regularly over the past decade.
However, I am very fond of the composer’s comedies and Elisir, again with Cotrubas as well as José Carreras, Ingvar Wixell and Geraint Evans, was one of the first operas posted when this series nearly three years ago.
Donizetti: Don Pasquale
Lyric Opera of Chicago
2 November 1974
Norina: Ileana Cotrubas
Ernesto: Alfredo Kraus
Malatesta: Vicente Sardinero
Don Pasquale: Wladimiro Ganzarolli
Conductor: Bruno Bartoletti
Don Pasquale can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.