Don Pasquale at Komische Oper Berlin – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Gaetano Donizetti. Lyrics: Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffino under pseudonymen Michele Accursi after Angelo Anellis Ser Marc´antonio.
First performance: Paris, Thétre-Italien 3 januari 1848. Swedish premiere: Malmö Teater 8 maj 1848.
The aged Don Pasquale is living together with his nephew Ernesto. Ernesto refuses to marry according to Pasquale’s wishes, instead insisting on wedding the impoverished Norina. Now the old man wishes to start a family of his own. His doctor Malatesta has found the ideal woman for him: young, pretty, and just released from the convent – none other than the doctor’s own sister Sofroia. Pasquale can barely wait to meet this girl.
Before he does, he asks Ernesto one last time if he is willing to turn his back on Norina, but Ernesto merely declares his love for her again. Pasquale replies that he will then take a bride himself and disinherit Ernesto. Ernesto is devastated when he finds out that Malatesta with whom he, Ernesto, is also close friends – has agreed to the plan and even put forward his sister to be the bride. – Norina makes fun of sentimental love. She knows ecactly how to manipulate people’s feelings. Just as she receives Ernesto´s farewell letter – having been disinherit he feels he cannot adequately provide for her and so releases her -, Malatesta arrives and explains his plan to her: Norina is to disguise herself as Sofronia,pretend to marry Pasquale, and then make his life a misery. In this way he hopes to teach Pasquale a lesson and so gain his permission for Ernesto to marry Norina.
Ernesto is desperately miserable and wants to emigrate.His only remaining hope is that Norina will find happiness, no matter with whom. – Pasquale prepares himself for his first meeting with his bride-to-be. Malatesta introduces him to his supposed sister; Pasquale is smitten. A fake notary is at hand so that the marriage can take place right away. Pasquale adds a clause to the marrige contract which makes his wife part-owner of all he possesses. At this moment Ernesto appears, wishing take leave of his uncle; he discovers that Pasquale’s bride Sofronia is none other than his own beloves Norina. Just before Ernesto can denounce Norina´s charade. Malatesta informs him about the intrigue.The contract is barely signed before the gentle Sofronia turns into an extravagant lover of the theatre who won’t countenance being intimate with her aged husband for a minute – quite the opposite, in fact, as she demands that Ernesto keep her company. Pasquale is left in a daze.
Pasquale is devastated. His supposed wife is throwing his money down the drain and wants to go out late at night. He forbids it, but she just mocks him and sends him to bed. An argument breaks out between them, which escalates so far that Norina slaps him. He is deeply effected. Norina too can see that she has gone too far. Pasquale finds evidence of Sofronia’s affair and together with Malatesta hatches a plan to catch her in flagrante wth her lover. When threatened with being thrown out of the house, she reminds him that the house is now also hers. Malatesta is given a free hand by Pasquale and provokes Sofronia with the prospect of another woman soon calling the shots in the house: namely Norina,whom Ernesto is now allowed to marry after all. When Pasquale demands that Norina come at once, the game is at an end: Sofronia reveals that she is Norina, and Malatesta confesses to the intrigue. Pasquale recognises that his dreams were unrealistic and so bids the others: «Be as happy as you deserve.«