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Monday, 16 December 2013

Don Pasquale, Opera Australia

Tonight, recorded "live" cinema showing, Opera Australia

Disappointingly, not a live transmission at all (time zone differences make that next to impossible); but a wonderful, witty production.


Information from Opera Australia:

"Respectable man of a certain age seeks young lady for companionship and maybe more. Must like stamp collecting…

Tall, handsome 20-something, ready for romance.

Dream girl enjoys riding scooters and drinking capuccinos. Innocent young lass, loves to walk and read, ideally hoping to meet someone who can keep her in style.

Young professional, medically trained, looking for business partner with a view to making a motza.

Four characters, four spectacular voices, and a fast-moving plot: this new production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is as fresh and zingy as a lemon gelato. Enjoy!

Conal Coad laughs. He laughs a lot, and it’s infectious Indeed, as one of Australia’s finest comic singers, he has been making people laugh for well over four decades. Coad’s characters are often grand opera’s sidekicks or sub-plot, but in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale he takes centre stage.

Pasquale is the butt of many a joke in this rollicking story about the folly of old age, though he also scores a few points against the young folk. But how do you make an opera funny?

Coad has given it much thought. “The thing about comedy,” he says, “is if you play it for truth it works, but if you play it thinking, ‘Ho ho ho, look how funny I am!’ then it will fall on its face, guaranteed.”

Getting the laughs is further complicated by the score, which takes the timing out of the hands of the performer, and by the audience, who will often anticipate gags in a well-loved work.

Coad notices how audiences laugh politely at an obvious ‘custard pie’ moment, but the real aim for a comic performer is to take the audience by surpise, to win that spontaneous giggle of recognition.

This production is full of surprises. There are the grand hissy-fits of Don Pasquale’s new wife – played to the max by singer and comedienne Rachelle Durkin. Then there are the little details – an over-zealous footman, a snoozing gangster, a teddy-bear in the luggage.

It all adds up to a fast-moving, laugh-a-minute night in the theatre, powered by Donizetti’s zippy score.

“One of the delights of the music is how it sparkles and bubbles along,” says Coad, “and the production does exactly the same thing. It’s bright and breezy and the set moves in wonderful ways. It never stops. Like poor old Don Pasquale, I think I’ll need to go off to a spa and lie down in a darkened room after this to recover!”

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