Gaetano Donizetti

Don Pasquale, opera

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Don Pasquale is one of the great masterpieces of Italian comic opera, ranking with Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia and Verdi's Falstaff. The premiere took place at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, on January 3, 1843. Later that spring it appeared first at the Teatro alla Scala of Milan, then at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, and finally at Her Majesty's Theater in London. Although Donizetti was reputed to have finished this, his 64th opera, in a mere two weeks, it was hugely successful at each of these venues and gained rapid recognition throughout Europe. It was first heard in New York City in 1846 and has enjoyed unflagging popularity worldwide ever since.

    The charming libretto, which revolves around the elderly Don Pasquale's ill-fated foray into marriage with a young girl, is by Giovanni Ruffini, but is more properly considered a collaborative effort between him and the composer. Ruffini (who narrowly avoided death by escaping from an Italian prison, where he was to be put to death for "revolutionary" activities), wrote the original libretto for Donizetti in Paris, basing his story on Angelo Anelli's earlier libretto for Stefano Pavesi's opera, Ser Mercantonio. However, Donizetti (who often wrote his own comic libretti) made such substantial changes to the text during composition that Ruffini refused to sign his name to the finished product. As a result, the authorship of the libretto was for some years in question.

    The score to Don Pasquale is often described as Mozartean, and while its affect is clearly of the nineteenth, rather than eighteenth, century, it does recall the earlier master's ability to create vivid characterizations within a taut musical framework. Donizetti also succeeds in humanizing his subjects without ever sacrificing a light-hearted spirit of comedy. Norina is an especially gratifying character, both a strong-willed comic heroine and a sympathetic lover. She is full of intelligent wit, humor, tender sensibilities, and charm. The character of Don Pasquale, the rich bachelor determined to sire his own heirs at the age of 70, offers rich food for comedy without ever sacrificing his overriding sympathy. In each case, characters' emotions are skillfully delineated by musical style and texture: dramatic declamation, patter music, expressive roulades, and tender lyricism blend seamlessly.

    The second act is rightfully considered one of Donizetti's finest achievements. Still following the traditional divisions of number opera, it proceeds with such natural pacing and dramatic progression that it seems to form one through-composed gesture. It begins as a trio, as Norina and Doctor Malatesta arrive at Don Pasquale's house. Patter dialogue between the two men contrasts with the nervous melodic outpourings of Norina, who sings first in staccato notes, then in dotted rhythms, and finally in irrepressible roulades. When Ernesto enters, he is given heroic declamatory vocal lines. The conclusion of the resulting quartet is delightfully various and complex, with each character maintaining his or her particular musical identity while contributing to overall effect.

    Other memorable moments from Don Pasquale include the scheming Dr. Malatesta's aria, "Bella siccome un angelo," which has become a lyrical centerpiece of the baritone repertory, Don Pasquale's delightful "Un foco insolito," and Norina's cavatina, "Quel guardo, il cavaliere...So anch'io la virtù magica." Throughout the score, Donizetti succeeds in matching the wit and humor of the score with musical invention.


    1. No. 1, Overture
    2. No. 2, Son nov'ore (Introduction)
    3. No. 3a, È permesso?
    4. No. 3b, Bella siccome un angelo
    5. No. 4, Ah!... Un foco insolito
    6. No. 5, Pender mogilie? (Recitative & Duet)
    7. No. 6, Sogno soave e casto
    8. No. 7a, Quel guardo il cavaliere
    9. No. 7b, So anch'io la virtú magica (Cavatina) [Ich kenn' den tiefen Zauber]
    10. No. 8a, Buone nuove, Norina
    11. No. 8b, Pronto io son
    12. No. 8c, Vado, corro
    13. No. 9a, Povero Ernesto!
    14. No. 9b, Chercherò Iontana terra
    15. No. 9c, E se fia
    16. No. 10a, Quando avrete
    17. No. 10b, Via, da bravo
    18. No. 11, Fra da un parte etcetera
    19. No. 12, Pria di partir, signore
    20. No. 13, Siete marito e moglie
    21. No. 14, I diamanti, presto'
    22. No. 15a, Vediamo: alla modista
    23. No. 15b, Signorina, in tanta fetta
    24. No. 15c, È finita, Don Pasquale
    25. No. 16, Che interminabile
    26. No. 17a, Siamo intesi
    27. No. 17b, Don Pasquale... Cognato
    28. No. 18a, Cheti! cheti immantinente
    29. No. 18b, Aspetta, aspetta cara sposina
    30. No. 19, Com'è gentil (Serenata)
    31. No. 20, Tornami a dir (Notturno) [Lass es, ach lass es hören]
    32. No. 21a, Eccoli: attenti bene
    33. No. 21b, Eccomi... A voi

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Warner Classics 557373
    2014 Eurodisc 7790
    2013 United Classics T2CD 2013004
    2011 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 7856542
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 EMI Classics 5099964069
    2010 Erato 256468015-4
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945609
    2009 Preiser Records 20053
    2008 Gala Records 796
    2008 ArtHaus Musik 101303
    2008 Bel Air Classiques 033
    2007 Decca
    2007 Nuova Era 223301
    2007 Decca / Universal Classics 743202
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000617002
    2006 Decca 460161
    2006 EMI Classics 66030
    2005 Great Opera Performan 66332
    2005 EMI Music Distribution
    2004 Nuova Era 6715
    2004 Preiser Records 20028
    2004 Rai Trade USOPDP
    2003 Hungaroton 12416/17
    2002 Angel Records 57302
    2002 Warner Fonit 87476
    2000 Myto Records 001214
    2000 Preiser Records 20001
    1999 Koch Schwann 316472
    1999 Opera D'Oro 1224
    1998 Opera D'Oro 1166
    1998 Chandos 3011
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 49698-2
    1996 Arkadia 78017
    1994 RCA 61924
    1992 Erato 45487
    1988 EMI Music Distribution 47068
    Arkadia 490
    Decca 000897402
    Ornamenti 121
    Grammofono 2000 78561
    Disky 763
    Golden Age of Opera 202
    Foyer Records 2067
    Verona Records 27023
    Music Memoria 30231
    Enterprise 36
    Melodram 27094
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 5008
    Vocal Archives 1207/08