"Time stops when Flórez sings ... he's really that good."
London Financial Times
Sparkling like a magnum of champagne, a dazzlingly constructed play of light and shadow, "Don Pasquale" has always been an audience favorite and by far the most popular opera of Gaetano Donizetti. All too often, however, productions lose their footing in the shifting sands of make-believe, willful deception and self-delusion. In this well-rounded staging by Grischa Asagaroff (director), Luigi Perego (sets and costumes) and Nello Santi (musical direction), Donizetti's "drama buffo" of 1843 emphatically places the accent on humanity and tenderness - a concept that truly takes flight thanks to the grandseigneur of the opera stage, Ruggero Raimondi.
Bursting with vitality, he plays the duped miser as an overgrown child, who is only really at ease wearing his old dressing gown and surrounded by his cherished teddy bears. And when he is led on by his friend Malatesta and fooled by the cunning Norina, one does not pity him, but commiserates with him. Raimondi's imposing stature makes his helplessness all the more touching, and his deep and vibrant bass-baritone voice grounds his character's fundamental dignity.
Raimondi's burnished glow is superbly complemented by the luminous lightness and effortless artistry of tenor Juan Diego Flórez as Pasquale's nephew Ernesto. The Peruvian tenor, who shot to international fame with a voice made for bel canto, gives ample proof of his talent as the spoiled, blasé young man who soon becomes passionate for the one he loves. She, Norina, is played with disarming naughtiness and playful wickedness by Isabel Rey, whose sympathy with her "victim" Pasquale shimmers through her brassy demeanor. As the ambiguous Malatesta, Oliver Widmer cuts a dapper figure.
Asagaroff's revolving set reflects the many faces revealed by the protagonists during the course of the work. A sunny garden, a Renaissance façade, a stuffy salon that re-emerges in the third act furnished in garish pinks and reds – the set is a marvel of imagination. Conductor Nello Santi whips the action on with verve and brio, sprinkling a rubato here and a fioritura there, letting the elegiac moments breathe and infusing the entire production with the rousing spirit that makes "Don Pasquale" so beloved.