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Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale is a comic opera (opera buffa) in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. At the time of its composition, Donizetti had just been appointed music director and composer for the imperial court of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and Don Pasquale was the 64th of an eventual 66 operas he composed. Its libretto was adapted by Giovanni Ruffini from an older Italian opera, Ser Marc' Antonio, by Camerano. Don Pasquale was first produced at Paris's Théatre Italien in 1843, with Giulia Grisi as Norina, Giovanni Mario as Ernesto, Antonio Tamburini as Malatesta and Luigi Lablache as Don Pasquale.

The opera, in the tradition of opera buffo, harkens back to the stock characters of the commedia dell'arte. Pasquale is recognizable as the blustery Pantaleone, Ernesto as the lovesick Pierrot, Malatesta as the scheming Scapino, and Norina as a wily Columbina. The false Notary echos a long line of false officials as operatic devices.


Place, Rome.

Ernesto, nephew of Don Pasquale, is in love with Norina, and has refused to marry a "more suitable" woman chosen for him by Don Pasquale. The old man accordingly plans to wed and produce his own heirs. His physician, Dr. Malatesta, suggests his sister, Sofronia, a convent girl, as the bride. The Don accepts, and Norina disguises herself as Sofronia and signs a marriage contract before a sup­posed notary. Norina now behaves like a shrew, making life so miserable for the old man that he is relieved when he discovers that he has been duped. He repudiates his desire for marriage and consents to the union of his nephew with Norina.

ACT I. Introduction between Don Pasquale and the doctor. (Romance of Malatesta: “Oh, like an angel of beauty”; Cavatina, Pasquale: “Oh, how I feel the glow of fire in my heart”; Duet between Ernesto and Pasquale: “How? You will? Marry me.”) Change of scene: Norina’s cavatina: ,,Ah, beneath all eyes”; Duet between Norina and the doctor: “See, I am ready with love to surround him.”

ACT II. Ernesto alone; then Pasquale, Norina, doctor. (Terzett: “Take courage”; Finale: “On one side,” etc.)

ACT III. Chorus: “Bring the jewels at once”; Duet between Pasquale and Norina: “Dear wife, may I ask”; Duet between Pasquale and the doctor: “Softly in the dark.” Change of scene: Ernesto’s serenade: “As Luna laughs in the fragrant night”; Duct between Ernesto and Norina “Do I read in your looks ?“ Finale: “Heaven, what do you say? This is Norina.”

References and external links: Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.