Two things haunt me from the opening night of Scottish Opera's new production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale.
One is the quivering, clear and beautiful soprano voice of Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson as Norina, scaling the dizzy heights of Donizetti's score as lead and love interest. The other is the luminous green cats.
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Director Renaud Doucet and designer Andre Barbe have imagined Don Pasquale as a lonely, filthy and fairly
repugnant owner of a run down Rome hotel, with a problematic feline obsession.
The pre-set, which distracts the audience from the fine orchestral playing during the overture, displays static comic strip images to illustrate this concept. Surrounded by his collection of ornamental cats, we even have to endure Pasquale masturbating, during the conclusion of an
early aria, over his copy of "CatWoman" magazine.
Despite this most alarming of starts, in fact, Scottish Opera have an entertaining show on their hands.
It's not a sensitive or a subtle one. It's a cross between a slapstick comedy and a dated
TV sitcom. Cliche's abound,
some of them feeling more desperate than others. Speech bubbles descend, lines of washing rise.
Amusing staff caricatures wander throughout - aged porter, greasy cook, cleaner in rollers, fag clamped permanently between sour lips. It doesn't fathom any plausible psychological depths of its characters.
But it will get laughs, and
the audience will enjoy some lovely singing.
Aldo Di Toro is a great
relief on arrival, with a tenor voice that warms your
heart with open and honest expressivity.
Nicholas Lester is an
attractive Malatesta. Francesco Corti, back on the podium
after the mysterious departure
of his successor, draws a great sound from the orchestra, though he overwhelms Alfonso Antoniozzi (Don Pasquale)
all too often.