Bel Canto Opera’s production of

Don Pasquale

by Gaetano Donizetti

with a new English libretto and production by Tom Boyd

Orchestra conducted by William Bell

THE PLAYHOUSE, CHELTENHAM, 26 Feb. - x5 March, 2005

CLICK BELOW to hear the opening scene, ACT Ixxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CLICK BELOW to hear the love duet, ACT III

"Bel Canto comes with a special weapon: Boyd's ability to fashion sparkling new English versions of the operas he stages..." The Oxford TIMES

"... a more satisfactory production than the recent effort at Covent Garden*". The Gloucestershire ECHO *the Royal Opera production of Don Pasquale by Jonathan Miller, December 2004

"... the production used Boyd's own translation, a broad and broadly witty adaptation". OPERA magazine

" The libretto is Tom Boyd at his best, full of witty rhymes and amusing quips. ..an evening of laughter and rich entertainment". The Wilts and Gloucestershire STANDARD

"...the performance was a joy...a totally convincing updating by Tom Boyd, a master of his craft" letter in The Gloucestershire ECHO

(click here for more from the reviews)

GRAHAM STONE as Don Pasquale

PAUL CAREY JONES as Doctor Malatesta

PAMELA HAY as Noreen

STEPHEN BROWN as Ernesto

TONY, Don Pasquale's heavy - Lionel Bassett xxxxxx MRS TWIGGER, Don Pasquale's charlady - Sandra Dukes xxxx CARLO, posing as a marriage registrar - Bob Cook

CLICK ABOVE to hear Ernesto's Lamentxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CLICK ABOVE to hear Noreen's aria

A DVD or video of this production is available for £20, which includes an A5 booklet of Tom Boyd’s new libretto + p & p.

The libretto booklet is also available separately at £6.00 + p & p ($12.00 US) from Belcanto.opera@btinternet.com

 
DON PASQUALE: Describe her.

DR. MALATESTA: Face lovely as a work of art, lips soft as mozzarella, graced with a warm Italian heart, sweet as a crem’ caramella. Nothing extreme or foreign - curves like Sophia Loren... Though she’s voluptuous, this I vow: a virgin...I swear to you, a virgin..as of now!

DON PASQUALE: She sounds fantastic! Incredible! You’ve found my model wife, somehow.

Click HERE to watch duet and Pasquale's solo on YouTube

ERNESTO: You? You’re getting married? At your age? You must be joking.

DON PASQUALE: I see I’ll have to spell it! I, Pasquale da Corneto, born and bred in Taormina, son of Gino da Corneto and my mother, Giuseppina...though they’re only here in spirit, I announce, and they will hear it, that their bachelor son Pasquale is about to take a wife. On the honour of my mother, I will swear I’m going to do it; you were told before, and knew it, and I warned you you would rue it if you dissipate your life!

 

NOREEN: In Barbara Cartland’s soppy books, the heroines are funny - they only fall for titled men with land and bags of money. They’re all so frightfully upper, their evening tea is "supper", and tea is just a cuppa with scones and buttered bread. Despite the hero’s urgin’, the lady stays a virgin until the final chapter, when she’s wed and put to bed! Those county gals, impassioned, today seem so old-fashioned... discretion... repression... outdated since the pill. The world’s moved on, restraint is gone, and sex is now unrationed...relenting...consenting...if it’s all right to stay the night...they will!

 Click HERE to watch this aria on YouTube

DR. MALATESTA: My cousin Carlo in Tooting Bec has agreed to pose as a registrar and will bring round the marriage contract. We set the terms as we want them, old Pasquale signs it and we’ve got him nailed.

NOREEN: And I’m pretending to be your sister?

MALATESTA: Sofronia Malatesta, a nice simple convent girl. And once the two of you are married - so he thinks - you evolve into a virago and drive him to despair. He’ll welcome Ernesto back, trumpet and all.

NOREEN: Ah, I get you. Fab!

CLICK HERE to watch a portion of this scene on Youtube

ERNESTO: I might go to San Francisco - in the summer, love-ins are the scene there. Though I'd miss the Camden Disco, it's a bummer without Noreen there. I might join the Maharishi...meditation on location...the incantation of the sacred mantra "Om" - to help forget the deprivation that I suffer here at home.

Dear Noreen, though I am leaving, it would never do to leave you grieving...find some toff to love and cherish - I’ll not be jealous if you’re happy with him. I won’t blame you if you go suburban, I’ll be in a turban on some exotic shore, but you’ll remain deep in my heart, in Ancor Wat, though we’re apart I’ll love you, though I leave you, I’ll love you forever more.

 CLICK HERE to watch this scene on YouTube

MALATESTA: Come along now!

NOREEN (AS SOFRONIA): I am timid. I am trembling.

MALATESTA: He won’t bite you.

NOREEN: Promise brother you won’t leave me. I’m afraid. I’m so afraid.

MALATESTA: You’ll be fine here. (to Pasquale) Please forgive her inhibition, but she’s shy, and in addition she’s not been in this position, so be patient as you can.

 

MALATESTA: So Don Pasquale, what do you think of my little sister?

PASQUALE: Enchanting. But I'ma need to see her face. MALATESTA: She is unused to speaking directly to a man, but if you ask her a few questions...to get the ball rolling. PASQUALE: I suppose a young girl like you likes to dance sometimes? NOREEN: At school we only learnt country dancing; eightsome reels and Strip the Willow... however the Dashing White Serjeant and the Gay Gordons were considred unsuitable for convent girls. PASQUALE: you did these country dancings with the young men, no?

NOREEN: Oh, no Sir. Only with the nuns. That was their habit.

PASQUALE: I, Pasquale etcetera, share all my worldly possessions, my properties and securities, assets from various professions, for all my natural life, I give them to my wife. She’s free to come and go and see her friends, if it amuses, go shopping if she chooses...expenses will be paid.

MALATESTA: Sir, you show a gentlman’s breeding, conceding she must be obeyed.

NOREEN: Yes, what a man of good breeding, conceding my bills will be paid.

REGISTRAR: The contract is made.

ERNESTO: I've come to fetch my hold-all. Surely my right to do so. I'm treated like a criminal. Your goon here barred my way.

PASQUALE: This meeting's private. But as you're here, you could be useful. We need another witness to sign the marriage contract. I introduce with pride, my sweet old-fashiond bride. She'll be your auntie.

 

 

 

ERNESTO: My God, it’s Noreen. You’re all behind this scheme. This must be just a dream.

DR MALATESTA: ....don't mention the name of who you've seen here. You'll thank us both when I tell you why Noreen has been here. Trust me, you'll win the day if you stay and play along.

 

 

REGISTRAR: Now I pronounce you man and wife.

PASQUALE: My darling...

NOREEN: Hold your horses. I can’t stand a man who forces. You need to ask politely...

PASQUALE: Please may I kiss you?

NOREEN: No!

 

NOREEN: Here's the maid? Ha ha ha ha! What a specimen! She needs a uniform. For servants, that's the norm. For shopping, I'll be needing a motor car and driver. A lady of my breeding can't go by tube or bus.

PASQUALE: What's wrong with public transport?

NOREEN: Shut up - don't make a fuss! If you will be so gracious, I'd like a car that's spacious...a long black limousine, just like the Queen.

PASQUALE: You think I'm J. Paul Getty?

NOREEN: I'll not have you be mean.

PASQUALE: You’ll not go out with him. I won’t permit it!

NOREEN: My sweetest darling, I tell you straight..."permit" is a word not worth saying. What I will do, or what I want from you, I say...and you are obeying! ...I have contained myself with gentleness and grace, but if you go on provoking me, this hand will slappa your face!

 

PASQUALE: What a hateful and ungrateful and ungracious and audacious little Circe! She deceived me and aggrieved me and misused me and abused me without mercy. She is vicious and pernicious...she will make my life a hell...she’s capricious and officious, avaricious, and ambitious to relieve me of my bank account and wordly goods as well!

 

PASQUALE: I've been fooled and ridiculed and told I must obey.

NOREEN, ERNESTO & MALATESTA: Don Pasquale, poor old geezer, he has signed his life away. We’ve won the day!

End of Act II

PASQUALE: Signorina, why all the hurry? Where you go? If you don't mind saying.

NOREEN: Off to Wembley, and I really have to scurry. There's a rave-up, and the Rolling Stones are playing.

PASQUALE: Many husbands turn to violence when their wives play games to cheat them.

NOREEN: Old men ought to keep their silence...younger wives have strength to beat them!

NOREEN: Lie down now and have a good rest, you've been too distressed for one day. Dear hubby, your wifey knows best, so you ought to do what I say! A man of your age should not engage in rage...an angry old bloke is likely to croak from a stroke, and that is no joke! Lie down now and sleep well, my dear...don't wait up, for I shall be late. Your wife will return here, and wake you at eight!

 

 

 

PASQUALE: Woman! Papa always said: "Women... you give them an inch and they think they’re a ruler!" Only he said it in metric.

MRS TWIGGER: That young bride of ’is will be the death of ’im. When a bird her age marries a a geezer his age, there’s only one thing that can make her ’appy. They calls it "widowhood".

 

OLDIES: What has gone wrong with this young generation? Clothes, drugs and sex are their preoccupation.

YOUNGIES: The old and us are chalk and cheese

OLDIES: They think that money grows on trees

 

 

 

 YOUNGIES: They're slaves to wages, stuck in tradition.

OLDIES: Bring back conscription. They've no ambition.

YOUNGIES: They're too judgemental...and always wrong!

OLDIES: Their skirts too short...their hair too long.

 

OLDIES: Can't understand them. I blame the schools!

YOUNGIES: A load of wonks with too many rules: "Don't do this! Don't do that! Don't do the other. Do as we say, we're your father and mother."

OLDIES: They use us, abuse us, and treat us like servants; ask us for money , and do as they please!

YOUNGIES AND OLDIES: That generation! We're chalk and cheese!

PASQUALE: I’ll explain the situation: quiet, quiet, very silent to the garden we’ll go creeping. We observe with vigilation from the shadows in the corner where we hide to do the peeping. When this lover comes pursuing, and my wife arrivies for wooing, you take notes on what they’re doing for a witness’s report. If I catch them getting randy, I will have my camera handy...I will photograph the liaison for evidence in court.

 MALATESTA: If we discover she has a lover, I’d be the first to display my dismay...I’d be averse to your letting her stay, You see her off, and I’ll take her away. She will go without delay...you’ll be shot of her today!

PASQUALE: Your support’s appreciated...I’ll thank God when she’s vacated.

 

MALATESTA & PASQUALE: (as to Sofronia) You and your lover are soon to discover your husband and brother have set you a trap. You cooked your goose with that ill-mannered slap! Now you have fallen straight into our lap. Ha ha! Ha ha! Snap goes the trap!

ERNESTO'S SERENADE: O liquid moon, in the watery skies...an English June - it's raining and that's no surprise. Precipitation dampens our assignation, but once we’ve met, we'll not notice it's wet...we'll disregard the showers, and when it's squally, we'll snuggle up for hours beneath my brolly. Here at the gate, I await coming in, but if you're late I'll be soaked to the skin. My ardour's waning, my feet are freezing, it goes on raining, I go on sneezing...

BACKING GROUP: When planning rendez-vousing, advise your lover... in Britain when you're wooing....stay under cover!

ERNESTO & NOREEN (Love duet): Say once again that you love me. ..Tell me again how you care for me... Promise you’ll always be there for me... Swear you’ll stay by me for life...

 

CLICK HERE to go to top of page to watch this duet

 

 

 

PASQUALE: We’ve got you! Where’s your boyfriend?. Your fancy man? I’ma see you doing the canoodle... the snog snog... the hanky panky in the bushes.

NOREEN: You astound me! That’s slanderous. There was no one here but me.

 

 

MALATESTA: Now listen, Don Pasquale - let me sort this out. You trust me, don’t you?

PASQUALE: I’ma trust you, Doctor.

MALATESTA: Then you keep quiet and give me the free hand...the carta bianca, eh?

PASQUALE: Si, I give you the carta bianca.

MALATESTA (to Noreen): Tomorrow in this house we are expecting a new bride to arrive...the wife of your nephew Ernesto...her name is Noreen.

NOREEN: (to Pasquale) I hear about this wretched woman. A divorced shop girl. I’ll not have her under my roof. If that Noreen comes, I go!

PASQUALE: Pray God!

 

ERNESTO: I happened to be passing.

MALATESTA: Don Pasquale has been assessing the situation with fresh eyes. He now consents to your marriage to Noreen, makes you heir to the da Corneto estate, and offers you an allowance of a thousand pounds a year.

ERNESTO: Oh, my dear uncle...can this really be true?

PASQUALE: If Sofronia is completely against it, that’s a good reason Don Pasquale da Corneto should be for it. Io consento. Ernesto, my boy, run and fetch your dollybird, and I’ll arrange for the marriage immediately. Presto subito.

MALATESTA: No need to fetch her. She’s already here. This is Noreen.

PASQUALE: (utterly confused) Noreen is English...you’re not her brother. Where is your sister?

,MALATESTA: Home with my mother.

PASQUALE: Am I not married?

MALATESTA: It was a caper. Here’s what you signed...you can tear up the paper.

NOREEN and ERNESTO: Uncle, forgive us.

MALATESTA: It was to show you the folly of marriage.

PASQUALE: I should be grateful. It’s all forgotten now. (to Ernesto and Noreeen) You’ll soon be married. May heaven bless you, as I now do.

 

 

 

NOREEN (finale): Don Pasquale, have compassion for our younger generation. As life changes, so does fashion, and you’re well past your sell-by date. We’re beyond your comprehension. Things were different in your youth. You’re a product of convention. You can’t change...you’re too long in the tooth. You should face it, and be truthful - act your age now, and behave. No use trying to be youthful, You can’t run with one foot in the grave.

 

 

 

All photographs by Roger Phillips http://www.rogerphillipsphotos.com

CLICK BELOW to see the Malatesta/Noreen duet, ACTI

THE CRITICS WROTE:

"The whole thing (Don Pasquale) is just right for the Bel Canto company, and its irrepressible director/librettist Tom Boyd. Librettist? Bel Canto comes with a special weapon: Boyd's ability to fashion sparkling new English versions of the operas he stages... Boyd has transferred the setting to 1960s London, which works perfectly well. Just five days before opening night Deryck Hamon, singing Pasquale, was taken ill and had to be replaced. Graham Stone knows the role well, but Tom Boyd’s words were new to him. But strong acting and singing, plus skillful manipulation of post cards carrying the script, produced a triumphant performance. This Pasquale is no revolting old lecher, but a lonely man invoking sympathy. There is strong support from Paul Carey Jones as the creepy Malatesta, and from Stephen Brown as Pasquale’s wronged nephew Ernesto. Pamela Hay also sings well, and looks the part of Noreen...Down in the pit, William Bell and his band have a high old time in this exuberant production." Giles Woodforde, The Oxford TIMES, 4 March 2005

"With interesting adaptations to the score and libretto, this is not an opera for the purists, but if you want to be entertained, I recommend this version of Don Pasquale. It was a more satisfactory production than the recent effort at Covent Garden*. Stage director Tom Boyd has made an excellent job of converting Donizetti's 19th century comedy to the swinging 1960s, with contemporary language, costumes and stage sets. The eponymous anti-hero, strongly sung at short notice by Graham Stone, displays high artistic taste in copies of Renaissance paintings on his walls, only to have them replaced by Andy Warhol after his marriage to the trendy Noreen, pleasingly sung by Pamela Hay...Lionel Bassett, Sandra Dukes and Bob Cook contributed amusingly in their minor roles. Outstanding with his high acting ability and warm resonant voice, Paul Carey Jones portrayed the catalyst Dr Malatesta with aplomb and conviction. " Anne Dunn, The Gloucestershire ECHO, 1 March 2005

*reference to the Royal Opera production of Don Pasquale by Jonathan Miller, December 2004

"Donizetti took the then unusual step of specifying "modern dress" for the 1843 Paris premiere of his last comedy, so it would seem perverse - as Jonathan Miller did recently at Covent Garden - to put the opera back in time. Yet there is also a danger of Don Pasquale's period manners appearing old-fashioned today, and it was neatly solved here in Tom Boyd's production for his Gloucestershire-based company. By setting it in Soho of the Swinging 60s, while preserving an Italian flavour by making Pasquale and his household Sicilian immigrants, he still supplied exoticism by the standards of genteel Cheltenham. Norina became Noreen, a sales assistant in Carnaby Street, and the stage was set for a clash of not just generations but cultures. Playing a bumbling old cardiganed character, Graham Stone was a lively Pasquale; a last-minute stand-in, he incorporated discreet use of of some crib notes (The production used Boyd's own translation, a broad and broadly witty adaptation which replaced the recitatives with dialogue) into his amusing and warmly sung act. Pamela Hay cut a glamorous figure as the blonde dollybird and disclosed a fine lyric voice; her phrasing was beautifully coloured, her coloratura secure. Paul Carey Jones made a smooth Malatesta with an incisive baritone, and Stephen Brown was likeable as Ernesto destined for the hippy trail. All were good at getting the translation across". John Allison, editor, OPERA magazine, May 2005.

"For many years now, Bel Canto's annual production has provided a pocket of sustained excellence in the entertainment calendar of the Cotswolds. For their latest offering Tom Boyd and William Bell have taken Donizetti's 19th century masterpiece and set it in the London of the 1960s. ...a typically unlikely operatic plot - but no matter. Operas are about singing, acting and direction and in these, Bel Canto, as ever, excels. In Tom Boyd's witty, wily and with-it new English libretto, the fun and games take place in Italian Soho during the swinging sixties, when girls in mini skirts were on the pill, boys in flares were on the make, and the generation gap had widened into a canyon. A quartet of top professional singers makes this year's Bel Canto production a musical feast as well as a bundle of laughs: Pamela Hay as Noreen brings beauty and vivacity to match her beautiful soprano, the baritone Paul Carey Jones is superb as the scheming Malatesta, and tenor Stephan Brown is perfect as the foppish Ernesto. All bring dramatic awareness and stage presence to match their vocal talents. And a particular word of praise for Graham Stone, an eleventh hour replacement as Don Pasquale, whose performance betrayed hardly a hint of hesitancy. The libretto is Tom Boyd at his best, full of witty rhymes and amusing quips. William Bell, in his 500th peformance, brings his customary expertise to the musical direction and the sets and costumes perfectly reflect the opera’s main theme. Space precludes individual accolades for all, but everyone fully played their parts in producing an evening of laughter and rich entertainment. Highly recommended indeed". Stuart Russell, The Wilts and Gloucestershire STANDARD

Letter published in the Gloucestershire ECHO from a member of the audience

"What we saw at the Playhouse was an absolutely delightful production of one of the greatest comic operas ever written in a totally convincing updating by Tom Boyd, a master of his craft... William Bell’s conducting displayed consideration and perfectly chosen tempi. The performance was a joy, and I am grateful that since coming to Cheltenham seven years ago, I have been able to enjoy so many operas I would never have been able to get to see in London. Michael Webber, Cheltenham

 

 

 

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