[Critique] Successful transposition for « Don Pasquale » at the Opéra de Québec

The comic-lyrical masterpiece Don Pasquale by Donizetti is presented Thursday and Saturday at the Opéra de Québec. The success of the show designed by Jean-Sébastien Ouellette and masterfully led in the pit by chef Laurent Campellone is worth the detour. Mr. Ouellette won his bet for his first lyrical staging in a major opera company: his transposition of Don Pasquale in 1967 is sensible and works flawlessly. He is greatly helped in his task by the scenographer Michel Baker and, above all, the video designer Keven Dubois, who imprints on the whole a suave visual style vaguely inherited from the albums of Tintin or Achille Talon of the time.

The challenge of transposing an opera from 1842 to the middle of the 20th centurye century is narrative logic: a handful of luminous intuitions are not enough; everything has to find a coherence with regard to the libretto. The Ouellette-Dubois duo succeeds in this challenge, because the elegant projection device also works perfectly to take us from one place to another, with animated images or not.

Excellent vocal performance

The poetry of the scene of the construction of the station starting from a shooting star, then of the entrance of the train when Ernesto thinks of getting away from Norina, is well worth all the overrated bla-fla of the recent magic flute seen in Montreal, because it serves opera and storytelling and is not an end in itself.

These projections dress a cube, imagined by Baker, which, very well lit, serves as a place, sometimes Don Pasquale’s house, sometimes a hospital. The whole device allows singers, as in Faustto obtain an excellent vocal performance in their positioning in front of the public.

We also salute the care given to the costumes, which are very varied, right down to the last chorister.

After Victorien Vanoosten in Falset, the artistic director of the Opéra de Québec, Jean-François Lapointe, once again spoiled us in the pit with Laurent Campellone. A seasoned conductor in the French and Italian lyrical repertoires, he magnificently stimulated the OSQ, which he made play with a splendid flexibility and a ferocious energy that was transmitted to the stage.

The latter, where Michel Desbiens was faultless in the short role of the notary, is illuminated by the presence of Anne-Catherine Gillet. Already beautiful in Faustthe soprano has come to replace Hélène Guilmette and wins the day with her wit, accuracy and charm.

Patrick Kabongo (Ernesto) has a very beautiful timbre, not very powerful, very fine, reminiscent of Antonio Figueroa in his early days. There is a somewhat mysterious element in his technique: without Kabongo giving the air of forcing, one has the impression that the whole column of air fails to develop into an expanding sound. But it is elegant and pleasant to hear.

There remains the Pasquale-Malatesta duo. It passes, because Olivier Déjean and Hugo Laporte are good professionals. But Pasquale should be a “round” singer, bass-baritone or bass, with very firm bass, and Malatesta, an authoritative baritone in his treble, in order to establish his dramatic dominance. Olivier Déjean is rather dry and short in bass and Hugo Laporte, of a round ascending. Even if we ignore the comic spring due to the fact that Pasquale is in theory chubby, the role requires more spirit.

But the show is nonetheless worth the candle and, above all, deserves to attract significantly more spectators. It is time for public success to reward the quality offered by the Opéra de Québec.

Don Pasquale

Opera by Gaetano Donizetti (1842), Quebec Symphony Orchestra. Director: Jean-Sébastien Ouellette. Grand Théâtre de Québec, October 25. Resumption Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon.

To see in video

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