Don Pasquale
  • Gaetano Donizetti. Dramma buffo in three acts.
  • Libretto by the composer and Giovanni Rufini, after an earlier libretto by Angelo Anelli.
  • First performance at the Théâtre Italien, Paris, on 3rd January 1843.
Don Pasquale, an elderly bachelor bass
Dr Malatesta, his doctor baritone
Ernesto, his nephew tenor
Norina, a young widow, loved by Ernesto soprano
Carlino, cousin of Dr Malatesta bass

Don Pasquale has decided to marry and have a son, hoping thereby to disinherit his nephew Ernesto, whose relationship with Norina he is against. Dr Malatesta tells him that he is fit to father children, but suggests his sister Sofronia as a candidate for marriage. Ernesto finds his uncle in high spirits but is put out when he learns that the reason for this is his intended marriage. Dr Malatesta now persuades Norina to act the part of his supposed sister. Malatesta brings the veiled Norina to Don Pasquale, whose manners cause her much amusement. Malatesta now introduces his cousin Carlino, as a notary, drawing up a document to make all the old man’s possessions over to Norina. Ernesto comes in, appalled at what he sees, until matters are explained to him. Once the supposed Sofronia is safely married, as it seems, she gives full play to her temper and extravagance, eventually dropping a note that suggests she has planned an assignation in the garden that night. Don Pasquale plots with Malatesta to catch Sofronia with her lover. Ernesto sings to her in Don Pasquale’s garden, joined by Norina. Don Pasquale, who, with Malatesta, has observed the scene, emerges from hiding, ready to turn Sofronia out of his house. Malatesta now persuades Don Pasquale to tell her that the next day Norina will be mistress of the house, married to Ernesto. He tells the old man that the only way to be rid of Sofronia is to have Ernesto marry Norina, and to this he agrees. The whole plot is revealed to him and he accepts that he has fully learned his lesson.

A splendid comic opera, with its own moments of tenderness, Don Pasquale opens with a brilliant overture that uses some of the material that is to follow. Malatesta gives a glowing description of his supposed sister in Bella siccome un angelo (As beautiful as an angel) and Norina’s Quel guardo il cavaliere (So looks the knight) marks her reading a tale of romantic chivalry in the second scene. Ernesto’s serenade, Com’è gentil (How gentle the night), and his following duet with Norina, Tornami a dir che m’ami (Come and say you love me), set the final garden scene.