On This Day: 5 Essential Recordings of Donizetti’s Masterpiece ‘Don Pasquale’

By Francisco Salazar

On Jan.3, 1843 Donizetti’s comic masterpiece “Don Pasquale” made its premiere with immediate success. It immediately became part of the standard repertoire and a piece that was translated into French, and performed all over the world. Since its premiere the opera has been performed more than 700 times and has been recorded by many great artists. To celebrate the works premiere, OperaWire takes a look at some of the essential recordings of the work.

Anna Netrebko from the Metropolitan Opera

When “Don Pasquale” made its return to the Metropolitan Opera in 2006 in a new production by Otto Schenk, the run was an instant hit and it propelled Anna Netrebko’s career to stardom at the Metropolitan Opera. After such a wildly classic run, Peter Gelb revived the work to great acclaim in 2010. While the cast was different, Netrebko remained alongside Mariusz Kwiecien, the two stars of the original run. The result was an evening filled with laughter, hilarious acting and great singing. There was also a bonus as James Levine conducted his first run of Donizetti’s masterpiece. The 2010 performance was recorded Live in HD and immediately released by Deutsche Grammphon. Today this recording is even more of a special considering that it preserved the late John del Carlo’s interpretation for many to see in years to come.

Beverly Sills and Sarah Caldwell

Sills is widely recognized for her Norina and it was historically recorded on the Met’s television broadcast. She exudes great energy and while she was not the type of of actress that would do cartwheels on stage, she knew how to express with subtle actions. However, that broadcast was never released. But thankfully Warner Classics released the legendary recording that was conducted by Sarah Caldwell one of the few female conductors of the time. Sills, while not in her prime during this recording still showcases her vitality and the virtuosic qualities of her voice. The supporting cast is also superb as it includes Alfredo Kraus and Donald Gramm.

Juan Diego Florez and Ruggero Raimondi

Everyone knows that a Don Pasquale without a great Norina is really not that funny. However, sometimes its the men who can surprise and steal the show. And that is the case with Florez and Raimondi’s performances from the Zurich Opera. Isabel Rey is impeccable as Norina but it is Florez’s comic timing and chemistry with Raimondi that really steal the show. And of course Florez sings exquisitely with some thrilling high Cs. Decca released the DVD back in 2006.

Lucia Popp and Francisco Araiza

Sometimes there are two singers with the same stardom that are just so well matched like this recording from Eurodisc. Popp had an impeccable technique and from her work in operetta, she brings a clarity to each recitative that is rarely heard. Her voice is sweet and flexible and each line reads delight. Meanwhile Araiza has one of the most expressive voices in the role of Ernesto and just like Popp, he too gives it his all when it comes time to show off his bright high notes and his perfect coloratura runs.

Riccardo Muti conducts Sesto Bruscantini and Mirella Freni

Muti is well known for conducting the work and has a DVD recording as well as a famous CD recording with Freni and Bruscantini. Those expecting to hear thrilling high notes should look elsewhere because Muti is a stickler for working off the original intentions of the composer. However, what is so great about this recording is the brisk tempi the conductor takes and the detail he adds to the  orchestra. Freni, Gosta Winberg, Leo Nucci and Bruscantini are also wonderful in their roles.


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