Cape Cod Opera Presents a Feisty & Witty "Don Pasquale"
By: Susan Blood, August 2, 2012
COURTESY CCO - Members of the Cape Cod Opera production of "Don Pasquale" get down at a Cape Cod picnic earlier this summer. In back, from left: tenor Christopher Lucier (Ernesto), pianist Matthew Larson, baritone RaShaun Campbell (The Notary), baritone Adam Smith (Don Pasquale); in front, from left: producting artistic director David McCarty, soprano Sarah Callinan (Norina) and baritone Paul Soper (Dr. Malatesta).
A recurring theme of Cape Cod Opera’s upcoming production of Don Pasquale is “moveable.”
The set is on casters for ease and speed of scene changes. The singers are young and deft—a far cry from the stereotypical opera singer. Even the plot is fast-moving and quick-witted.
If you put a libretto on those casters and gave it a good spin, it would be Don Pasquale.
If you go...
Performed by Cape Cod Opera
Friday, August 3, at 8 PM and Sunday, August 5, at 3 PM
Tilden Arts Center at Cape Cod Community College
Orchestra, $35; Balcony $25; Students under 18 $10
To reserve tickets, call 508-246-0039 or visit capecodopera.org
It’s no surprise, then, that CCO’s Artistic Director David McCarty has collected a cast to match the fast-paced production.
“The chemistry will be great,” he says. “There’s an intensity in [the singers’] concentration and their commitment to finding the best solutions in the staging and the singing. They are thinking singers.”
Three of these singers will be making their Cape Cod Opera debuts, joining two others who have performed frequently with the company.
The two returning singers are the big schemers of the story: Paul Soper as Dr. Malatesta and Sarah Callinan as Norina. The cast is rounded out with Adrian Smith as Don Pasquale, Christopher Lucier as Ernesto and RaShaun Campbell as the Notary.
Feisty & svelte roles
Frustrated with his nephew, Ernesto, Don Pasquale enlists the help of Dr. Malatesta to teach the young (and lovestruck) man a lesson. Malatesta, however, is more sympathetic to Ernesto and his love, Norina, than the rigid and miserly Pasquale.
With Norina, Malatesta plots a deception that involves a catastrophic marriage and some very expensive home improvement.
“When you work with Paul, you look across the rehearsal space and he’s right there with you,” McCarty says of his Malatesta.
“Sarah does the same thing. They are really giving performers. Their musicianship is matched by the fact that they are both really smart, with great instincts.”
“I love coming back to Cape Cod Opera,” says Callinan. “I’m surrounded by beautiful things. And David [McCarty] and I always have a blast. We have similar ideas about how theater should go. We both have a little less reverence in order to get a laugh, make it fun and get to the comedic gold.”
There is plenty of comedic gold in her role as Norina.
“Norina is one of the feistiest characters in opera,” Callinan says. “She manages to wrangle everybody and wraps up the whole show. She’s in total control almost from the downbeat.”
McCarty puts Adrian Smith in the same “thinking singer” category as Soper and Callinan.
“Adrian has an incredible voice and a huge presence,” he says. “I wanted to give him the opportunity because I was so impressed with him when I heard him sing. It’s going to be a great trio with those three characters.”
In many productions of Don Pasquale, Smith would be considered too young, svelte and handsome for the title role. But McCarty envisions Pasquale as less of a buffo caricature and more of a successful businessman who’s reached the end of his rope with his obstinate nephew.
As for that nephew, Lucier has a quality of innocence and naiveté that benefits the character and energy of the story. Ernesto is young, idealistic and in love.
Where's Waldo of the opera
McCarty’s casting shenanigans didn’t stop with the auditions—or with the arrival of the singers.
“RaShaun [Campbell] has no idea what is about to hit him,” he says. Campbell was originally cast as the Notary, but the director plans to sneak him into as many additional scenes as possible. In Don Pasquale, Campbell will be the Where’s Waldo? of the opera.
“We’re not doing an old warhorse traditional take on it,” McCarty says of his hijinks-peppered production. “I’m trying to make it really accessible for the singers and the audience.”
He describes the set as “way down in the lap of the audience.” The set design and overall concept allow the performers to sing light enough that the text in English can be understood.
“The more people need to sing out over an [orchestra], the less likely you’re going to hear a great text,” McCarty explains.
“I am trying to make it intimate and approachable, so the audience can get a sense of the text, the thought process, and the deftness of it. It is a comedy, with some heroic singing. People are more moved if they understand why the heroics are happening,” he adds.
“I can’t think of a reason why anybody wouldn’t like this opera,” Callinan concludes. “Kids could get into the silliness of it and adults will get the more adult jokes. This opera is appropriate and wonderful for anybody.”