South Vancouver production brings new twist to old favourite

Promotional image for Don Pasquale by Opera Mariposa
Promotional image for Don Pasquale by Opera Mariposa

Local production company Opera Mariposa brings a fresh take to Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti’s 19th-century masterpiece Don Pasquale.

With modern references ranging from Twilight to hashtags, Opera Mariposa breathes new life into an old opera, but it was the performance by soprano Robin Eder-Warren that stole the show.

“It’s a huge undertaking, locally,” confessed Eder-Warren.

“It’s a big scale opera. Full length.  Which a lot of young artists like myself don’t get to do,” she added.

The bubbly Eder-Warren plays leading lady Norina, and is also a founding member of Opera Mariposa, doubling as managing director for the show.

A tale of deception

Don Pasquale revolves around the titular character, a crotchety bachelor, seeking marriage so he can finally disinherit his useless melodramatic nephew, Ernesto.

Campbell McLeod as Don Pasquale showed off his formidable bass voice, with the UBC graduate’s firm delivery complimented by the warbling tenor talent of Matt Chittick as Ernesto.

The lovelorn Ernesto adores the poor but charming Norina, sister to Pasquale’s doctor, Malatesta. The cunning Malatesta arrives at the Pasquale estate to inform the boorish don that he has a beautiful, innocent and most importantly, fantastically rich sister called Sofronia. Delighted, Pasquale disinherits Ernesto on the spot.

Malatesta was expertly played by the opera up-and-comer Jason Cook, and combined both effortless musical ability with enjoyable comic acting, almost constantly mocking the oblivious Pasquale.

However, Malatesta is a secret friend of Ernesto and has invented the fictional sister Sofronia to trick the oafish old man, as once the two are married, Sofronia, who is actually Norina, will make the elderly Pasquale’s life a complete hell.

“Norina is a phenomenal character for my particular voice type in opera,” Eder-Warren said.

With opera, voice determines character and Eder-Warren’s melodic soprano has her often playing bold women, similar to Norina.

“They’re similar characters. Sort of sassy, poor maids who are smarter than all the men around them… Norina is cut from the same cloth but is unique too. She is wilier and at some points, more cruel,” said Eder-Warren.

A moonlit conclusion

Pasquale is unaware of the deception and falls in love instantly with the bashful and meek Sofronia and proposes marriage immediately. Malatesta brings in his drunken cousin to act as a notary and the two are wed briefly.

As soon as the ceremony is done, Sofronia transforms into Pasquale’s worst nightmare, spending thousands on diamonds and cars and making Ernesto her gentleman escort.

The opera culminates with a meeting in a moonlit garden where all the deceptions are laid bare and the moral of the story is sung around the defeated Pasquale: Don’t marry if you’re old.

Opera Mariposa’s production ends this weekend,  playing on Oct. 25 and 26 at the Marpole United Church. Tickets are $18 for students.

Reported by Brian Horstead and Niall Shannon

In this podcast Brian Horstead presents an interview with lead soprano and managing director Robin Eder-Warren

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