About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network


Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Wild-West Donizetti

Academy of Vocal Arts
02/21/2009 -  & February 24, 28, March 3, 7
Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale
Don Pasquale (Ryan Kuster), Alex Lawrence (Dottore Malatesta), Taylor Stayton (Ernesto), Corinne Winters (Norina), Jonathan Winell (Un Notario)
Richard A. Raub (conductor)
David Gately (stage director), Peter Harrison (set designer), Val J. Starr (costume designer), Allen G. Doak, Jr. (lighting designer)

T. Stayton (© Paul Sirochman)

David Gately’s spaghetti western Don Pasquale has been performed in cities across the United States. The Academy of Vocal Arts is introducing Gately’s provocative production to Philadelphia. The stage director – and AVA’s resident design team – filled the small stage of the Helen Corning Warden Theater with sweeping vistas of the western landscape. The first act opens in a hotel lobby and saloon that spills into Norina’s boudoir and a bordello before ending in a garden lined with giant cacti. Gately fills the stage with an unending flow of sight gags - yes, spaghetti is served in the final scene. Not content to let Donizetti’s music or the singers’ voices deliver the comedy, Gately introduces into the opening scene an officious Chinese hotel manager – broadly but deftly mimed by Josue Ceron – and a group of cowboys playing cards and sipping whiskey. Somewhere in the visual clutter, Malatesta sets the plot in motion, and the lovesick Ernesto sings his plaintive cantabile. The visual fun continues in the second act when Ernesto sings “Cercherò lontana terra” after stripping to take a bath.

Despite all the distractions, AVA’s youthful cast managed to sing and act with gusto. Stepping into the performance as a replacement, Ryan Kuster gamely played Pasquale although his slender baritone voice lacks the plump tone and dramatic edge ideal for the role. After a cautious start, Kuster relaxed and sang handsomely. By the final act, he was fully engaged in the comedy. Adding to the fun was Alex Lawrence as Malatesta. Like Kuster, Lawrence lacks vocal maturity but he sang with assurance and savored the comic opportunities.

The young lovers were delectably performed by Taylor Stayton (Ernesto) and Corinne Winters (Norina). Neither the tenor nor the soprano sounded at ease in their opening arias but, once they warmed up, they met the vocal demands and fashioned lively portrayals. An endearingly lovesick cowpoke, Stayton managed to give a suave account of Ernesto’s second-act aria while reclining in a bubble bath with his boots hanging over the sides. Winters caught Norina’s high spirits and buoyant energy as she schemes with Malatesta and then, in the second act, shifted easily from demure maiden to spitfire as “Sofronia” takes charge of Pasquale’s household.

Conductor Richard A. Raub opened the evening with a rambunctious account of the overture. By the second-act finale, Raub was shaping Donizetti’s music with an urgent but malleable hand. The orchestra played with extrovert energy, if without ultimate polish.

Robert Baxter



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com