The comic opera Don Pasquale by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, a masterpiece of its genre, was created in the final period of his career and has featured regularly in the repertoires of the world’s greatest opera houses for over 170 years. Donizetti gave precise subtitles to all of his comic operas, with Don Pasquale designated a dramma buffo. The opera’s premiere in 1843 achieved great success and it soon became one of his most popular works. Through its three acts we follow an entertaining story about two lovers, Ernesto and Norina, who attempt to thwart the elderly bachelor Pasquale’s plan to marry Norina. Numerous disguises, cases of mistaken identity, errors and dramatic twists are the main characteristics of this opera which plays on stereotypes at a frantic pace and uses the characters from the Italian commedia dell’arte: Pasquale is based on the whimsical Pantalone, Ernesto on the love-struck Pierrot, while Norina draws on the tricky Colombina. Nonetheless, Donizetti’s Pasquale is a genuine character, more complex than its source: he is honest and overemotional, funny one moment, curmudgeonly and naïve the next, enthrallingly gallant or hopelessly melancholy, but always, even in the most difficult moments, incorrigibly optimistic and full of life. After many twists and turns, the young couple manages to get married and the opera ends with a cheerful finale and joyful playfulness alongside a wise home truth, as Pasquale is forgiven for wanting to marry a young girl in his old age.
Gaetano Donizetti’s works linked the past with the future and he acted as a bridge between the operatic oeuvre of Gioachino Rossini and later composers, paving the way for Giuseppe Verdi. Moving away from rococo, Donizetti became a true exponent of romanticism, nurturing the humorousness of plot based on folk theatre. This wonderful opera, characterised by rich melodic invention, simple and flawless stylistic harmony, a clear musical structure and plenty of humour, will receive its premiere at the Zagreb Opera in co-production with the Opera of the Slovene National Theatre at Maribor.
JOSIP ŠEGO graduated from the conducting programme at the Academy of Music at Zagreb in 2000 when he also became a répétiteur at the Zagreb Opera. His conducting debut was the 2002 production of Vincenzo Bellini’s The Capulets and the Montagues at the Zagreb Opera where he has been working as a conductor since 2005. He conducted the ensemble Collegium pro musica sacra for several years and he frequently works as a guest conductor at opera houses in Croatia and abroad.
DORA RUŽDJAK PODOLSKI, theatre director, graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art at Zagreb in 1997. She has directed more than 60 plays and operas, worked with numerous theatres in Croatia and abroad, including children’s and puppet theatres, and she has published a collection of poems. She has won two Croatian Theatre Awards: for the musical Chicago (2004) and for the opera Madame Buffault by Boris Papandopulo (2014). She was the director of drama at the Dubrovnik Summer Games for two years. She teaches acting at the Academy of Music in Zagreb.