Don Pasquale

Photo: Matthew Polenzani as Ernesto

"A Cheerful Success"

A brilliant concept, consistently realized made San Diego's new production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" a tidy success.

Relocating - not updating - the action from its Italian origins to the wild American West certainly does not contradict the very human, very funny predicament of the mature successful gentleman attempting to take a younger wife. Surrounded by attractive western backdrops and decors, and underlined by Gately's effective and inventive staging, it all works, in a cheerful comedic way.

Pasquale's mansion becomes a hotel, with an office attached, the estate garden in the finale turns into a sagebrush and cactus yard, Ernesto laments Malatesta's apparent betrayal not by himself, but in a brothel, while being given a bath by ladies of a certain profession.

— Los Angeles Times

Don Pasquale
Kentucky Opera

"Old West take on opera is whimsical, genuine"

So much of opera production involves reconciling the possible with the practical that innovation – when it comes from a stage director's mind – must be tempered by the realities of appealing to mainstream audiences through mainstream works.

I tossed this notion through my mind all during Kentucky Opera's production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," which had the first of two performances Friday night at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. It's very much a romp in the classic buffa tradition, but with a decidedly alternative perspective: set in 1880s Arizona, complete with six-shooters, a bordello and quite a lot of cactus. When a projected translation of one greeting reads "Howdy, partner," you know that custom is being deliberately and agressively tweaked.

The essential character, however, is the staging itself. A collaboration between director David Gately and designer Tony Fanning, shared by Kentucky Opera and five other North American companies, it's a constant nudge in the ribs. And you know what? It's remarkably persuasive.

What could easily have seemed arbitrary or irrelevant here becomes a reasonable extension of theatrical possibility. Pasquale as a hotelier? Why not. Ernesto as a droopy-eyed, lovelorn cowboy? Sure. Gately wants to have fun, to test expectations and to add a certain dimensionality to an opera that is positioned well for such manipulations.

So Gately fashions a horse opera where the horse rolls in on wheels, a cathouse where the ladies coo at a bubble-bathed client, and the total effect reminds us that "Don Pasquale" does not need to be taken terribly seriously. It's almost like witnessing a production of "Noises Off," where the gags and physicality and sheer momentum of the production are what drives your interest. Gately's "Pasquale" embraces that dizziness, and invites us to as well.

Ultimately, and perhaps contradicting initial impressions of his ideology, Gately's staging is about deference to Donizetti's score. The director gives necessary space to the opera's major arias and ensemble pieces, reinforcing comic sentiment in a way that freshens our view of this small universe.

Isn't that enough for one evening in the theater?

— Louisville Courier-Journal

Don Pasquale
Opera Colorado (2008)

“Don Pasquale” is a hoot of a spaghetti western opera

Opera Colorado gives new meaning to the term, "spaghetti Western," with a hilarious, thoroughly entertaining production of "Don Pasquale" that moves the action to the Old West.

An Italian opera with Monument Valley as a backdrop might sound a bit absurd, but director David Gately effects this change of setting with such aplomb that it not only fits comfortably within the 1843 opera's context but also adds a whole other comic dimension.

It is easy to believe that composer Gaetano Donizetti, a consummate veteran of the theater, would have approved of this take on his light-hearted tale of true love triumphing with the help of a clever if farcical ruse.

Gately conceived his Old West approach to "Don Pasquale" in 1992 for the Chautauqua (N.Y.) Opera, and it has gone on to become something of a contemporary classic, at least among regional companies.

Opera Colorado's production is the 14th staging in Canada and the United States, and, not surprisingly, Gately has it down cold by now. Friday evening's opening performance at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House hit on all cylinders, with flawless timing and every comic gesture in place.

One of the cleverest and funniest moments comes at the beginning of the second act. Ernesto, who has been ejected from his uncle's house, sings a long aria of dejection while taking a bubble bath with his cowboy boots and hat still on and three, ahem, saloon girls attending to his whims. (Don't worry, it's all very G rated.)

— The Denver Post