<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill CONFINED TO THE HOUSE
So how did the singers cope with this rather distracting production? By and large, they coped very well. Simone Alaimo makes a wonderfully human Pasquale, mining the rich vein of comedy in the role whilst making him believable and never mugging too much. His voice has got a little more buffo than bass since he first appeared on the Covent Garden stage but he is still hard to beat in such roles. If his character seemed a little muted then we can perhaps blame the production, I longed to see him in a stage setting which would have allowed him to dominate the entire stage and communicate properly with the audience.
As his evil genius Dr Maltesta, Alessandro Corbelli projected a wonderfully suave image, but unfortunately his voice is no longer as suave as it should be in this role. As Pasquale's no good nephew Ernesto, Juan Diego Flórez arrived trailing clouds of glory. Luckily he did not disappoint. Not only did he sing the role (uncut) in stunning fashion, but in his first aria he made us really care for Ernesto's distress. Flórez overcame a rather unbecoming costume (luckily he does have good legs) to project a real character, he was the only singer who was consistently successful at overcoming the limitations of the production. As his beloved, Norina, Tatiana Lisnic was careful and rather subdued. Her fioriture were accurate rather than dazzling and I did wonder whether a more experienced singer, one not making her house début, might have been more successful at projecting her character.
Juan Diego Flórez (Ernesto) and Tatiana Lisnic (Norina) in Jonathan Miller's production of 'Don Pasquale'. Photo © 2004 Bill Cooper
In the final scene, which takes place in the garden, the singers were finally allowed to step out of the doll's house and this seemed to take a great weight off the production. But even then, Miller encouraged the chorus to try and upstage the soloists.
The singers were wonderfully supported by the Royal Opera House Orchestra conducted by Bruno Campanella who set speeds apt enough for the music never to drag whilst giving the singers time and space.
Covent Garden's previous production of Don Pasquale was created for Sir Geraint Evans but it was flexible enough to allow a variety of other singers to come in and impose their own personalities and styles of performance. Whilst, on the whole, I enjoyed this new production, I don't think I will be returning to it very much if further performances are scheduled; I feel that in any revival new singers will be accommodated by squeezing them into the production's rather awkward straightjacket rather than letting them express their personalities.