Don Pasquale

Minnesota Opera

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor: Jonathan Brandani

Director: Chuck Hudson

Review Quotations

Music holds its own in Minnesota Opera’s amazing staging of ‘Don Pasquale’: Have you ever been to an opera and walked out humming the concept?...Donizetti wove enough beauty into his romantic arias and suffused his duets, trios and quartets with such enjoyable vocal one-upmanship that his music is never pushed aside by a nevertheless quite imaginative staging...Director Chuck Hudson’s framework is that the rich, grumpy and aging Don Pasquale, who’s out to cut his nephew out of his inheritance and find love for himself, is a former silent film star consigned to “legend” status. It’s now the 1950s, and Hollywood’s gone Technicolor, leaving his career in the dust as he tries to revive it in one bad sci-fi flick after another. Much of this information is delivered in newsreel-style footage during the overture and between scenes. It’s a lot of fun — particularly trailers for the bad ‘50s films like “Tentacles 2” — that proves a novel way to use minutes normally spent in a darkened theater during scene changes.

. 'Don Pasquale' sparkles in Minnesota Opera's Hollywood-inspired production… director Chuck Hudson’s staging had plenty of bang-for-buck impact…in Hudson’s clever reimagining of the action…Updating operas is a hazardous business. It can smack of condescension and trendyism. Not here. This “Don Pasquale” sparkled and remained true to the warm heart of Donizettian comedy.

[One of] many reasons to come see this innovative and delightful production!

Donizetti argued strongly – and successfully – that Don Pasquale would be at its funniest in a contemporary setting, rather than some faraway period in the past. Minnesota Opera’s staging of the work sets it in 1950s Hollywood, seizing on the themes of old guard vs. new guard. It has shades of The Artist and Sunset Boulevard, presenting Don Pasquale as a washed-up silent movie star adrift (and over his head) in the new world of filmmaking. In his director’s notes for Don Pasquale, Chuck Hudson recalled studying commedia del’arte with Marcel Marceau in Paris, as well as the work of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. “Their comic dignity represented the champagne of comedy,” he noted, “as opposed to the stylistic beer of slapstick or vaudeville. Marceau also drilled us in the details of his own comic masterpieces, working the specificity, style, and that elusive skill, comic timing.”

Re-imaginings of old operas sometimes work; many times, they don’t… The Minnesota Opera’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale witnessed on Social Media Preview Night needn’t worry about upsetting anyone’s moral convictions, however…this version pulls all the comedic stops in celebrating the opera buffa on which it is based…Do the operatic conventions based upon the stylized shenanigans of commedia dell’arte fit into the mores of Hollywood’s Golden Age? The answer: surprisingly well.

My first night at the opera: Don Pasquale. Magnificent from beginning to end this opera met me where I was. Despite being the novice among seasoned ticket holders this performance planted a seed of appreciation for opera and I am grateful.

The line between modern adaptations that work and those that don’t is drawn by whether the new setting compliments and heightens the characters’ motivations and relationships. This ingenious setting by Chuck Hudson does exactly that. We as a modern American audience do not easily relate to tensions between nobility and commoners or the inheritance politics that inspired the arranged marriages of Pasquale’s time. Still, the plot requires an eccentric patriarch with an old-world view being pitted against the young lovers who wish to defy convention and marry for love’s sake. This necessity inspired Chuck’s Don Pasquale to become not a titled, eccentric recluse, clinging to the bygone days of his successful black and white film career. Norina, the dishonorable young widow, then becomes an up-and-coming talking film actress. The “old” versus the “new” is brought to the forefront and the Hollywood vessel gives us immediate cultural access to the conflict that makes the show so hilarious.

In Hudson’s frothy-fun staging, we find ourselves in 1950s Hollywood… Did everything work? In a word, yes. The staging was clever, employing some novel tricks to get through scene changes by projecting old movie footage of Pasquale in his silent movie days, which engaged the audience in good-natured fun and helped set the mood of jollity that's perfectly suited for this opera…this Minnesota Opera Don Pasquale was great all-around fun – a production with just the right amount of clever staging and slapstick humor even as it sacrificed nothing in the way of artistry and musicianship.

The 55th season of the Minnesota Opera Company has begun… with a program that seems inescapable, inevitable and completely enjoyable… If you want to explore the world of opera, and you've never done it, Don Pasquale is an excellent opportunity to do so. If you love the opera, do not miss this staging that is rich, dynamic and extremely fun.

The Buffoon and the Minx: When a non-opera fan goes to a production, it has to be so great that it overturns a lifetime of bad publicity and justifies the existence of the art form itself. Which is a lot of pressure. We don’t judge all movies by the most recent work of Nicolas Cage or all songs by Nickelback’s latest album so how dare we expect every operatic production to be brilliant? Yet we do. Luckily, MN Opera’s Don Pasquale is brilliant in every way you could imagine....This production was incredibly inviting to the audience. The story was laid out clearly and made accessible to anyone regardless of their knowledge of operatic repertoire.

Don Pasquale launched Minnesota Opera's 2017-2018 season on a high note of musicianship, design, execution and sheer entertainment that sets a high bar for the remainder of their season. Stage director Chuck Hudson's imaginative conceptualization of the work and a quartet of exquisite vocalists in the lead roles made this an unforgettable night at the opera… Minnesota Opera's production benefited from Hudson's continued refinement of his concept…Perhaps the true moral is that this buffet of glorious voices, sterling musicianship, creative conceptualization and staging, and abundant good-hearted humor was a generous gift that only a fool as foolish as Don Pasquale would turn away.