It would be hard to imagine a better performance of Donizetti's comic masterpiece. If there was one role that ideally suited Luciano Pavarotti's voice and stage personality, it was Nemorino, the impoverished and not-very-bright peasant who worships the village's prettiest and richest young woman from a distance, is swindled by a traveling vendor of "miracle" medicines, but wins her hand by dumb luck. The story has comedy, pathos, and a put-down of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (or at least the Tristan story) written long before Wagner composed it.
This studio recording was made in 1989 coinciding with a memorable production from the Metropolitan Opera, later captured on DVD. It's a delightful performance, and a wonderful highlight of Pavarotti's later career. Kathleen Battle's sparkling soprano is a brilliant accompaniment to Pavarotti's still-ringing tone.
"Pavarotti's voice was still beautiful and pliable, his phrasing exquisite. And he loved the role of Nemorino and always seemed happy with both its comedy and pathos–he steals every scene he's in, and no one minds…Kathleen Battle sings Adina with perfect, pearl-like tone, absolute fluency and commitment, and a trill to die for…Enzo Dara is an ideal Dulcamara, just the right combination of huckster and sentimentalist, with ease in every register and with fast music."
– Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
When Donizetti’s comedy, updated to the mid-20th century by the Uruguayan-born director Mario Gas, was mounted at Barcelona’s magnificent Liceu opera house in 2005, Opera News wrote that: “The absolute hit of the production was … Rolando Villazón, a commanding, vulnerable and hilarious Nemorino. His stage presence dominated every scene he was in …[and] his lovable innocence was a joy to behold. Villazón’s perfect technique and creamy, malleable voice conquered the audience … His athletic and expressive body language–midway between Cantinflas and Mr. Bean–fits this role and this production perfectly.” The Mexican tenor, making his debut at the Liceu, was called upon the encore the opera’s most famous aria, the plaintive ‘Una furtiva lagrima’.
Don Pasquale is among the last of Donizetti’s sixty-six completed operas. After the successful premiere of Linda di Chamounix in Vienna in May 1842. Donizetti made his way to Milan, hoping to get a new libretto for a comic opera for Paris. He actually started on a work called ‘Ne m’oubliez pas’ (do not forget me) before abandoning it when he got the commission to write a comic opera for the Théâtre Italien. Giovanni Ruffini, an Italian political exile living in Paris, wrote the libretto based on a previous opera by Pavesi. Donizetti was not happy with Ruffini’s verses and made changes of his own to the extent that his librettist refused to attach his name to the printed libretto.
Coming in at a tidy three hours and eight minutes, Donizetti’s huge Les Martyrs, composed (or adapted) for Paris in 1840, is here presented in its fullest conceivable form, including ballet and many passages cut right after the first performances. The opera was a reworking of his 1838 Poliuto, composed for the San Carlo in Naples, which had been banned by the king himself, since Christian martyrdom under the Romans was found unpleasant by the censors and the king was devoutly religious.
Rolando Villazón as Nemorino exhibits a real gift for comic acting, manipulating his rubber face into dozens of hilarious poses, flawlessly turning stock comic gestures into laugh-out-loud moments, and even juggling apples with the panache of a circus performer. More important, he uses his lyric tenor to sing the part with impressive subtlety, suggesting Nemorino's desperation while singing of his love for Adina. His big show-stopper, "Una furtiva lagrima," features melting pianissimos and a breathtaking decrescendo in its final phrase. Netrebko's Adina is every bit as good, with deft acting and a lovely lyric soprano voice that makes you understand why she's the only girl for Nemorino.
Frank Dunlop's witty, unvarnished view of Donizetti's country comedy, updated to the 1930s, is delightful to see, wondrous to hear. Gheorghiu and Alagna make an ideal partnership as capricious girl and shy bumpkin. They both act and sing their roles to near perfection in a staging that exposes the heart and heartlessness as much as the fun of this work.
This marks Rolando Villazón’s directorial debut in a dual-role: stage director and star singer (main role Nemorino) at the same time, and it is a clear WINNER. Inspired by the cartoon character Lucky Luke and the Spaghetti Western-tradition, the tenor’s staging for the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus is not only a film studio in the thirties but also a Western at the same time. Lead by the dynamic young conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, who “…conducts very singer friendly” (Online Musik Magazine). Extraordinary visual production, and one of the most memorable European operatic events of 2012.
Donizetti's rollicking comic opera The Elixir of Love receives a scintillating performance in this early 1970's London/Decca recording. Featuring an unbeatable cast, headed by Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti, this wonderful interpretation demonstrates singing of the highest levels of artistic integrity- definitive, passionate, lyrical, committed. The English Chamber Orchestra responds to Richard Bonynge's direction to provide sharp, colorful orchestral support, and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus' performance can only be described as brilliant.