REVIEW: Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale
Wanderlust Opera
4th Wall Theatre New Plymouth
February 2, 2019
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger

Wanderlust gives Don Pasquale a refreshing and contemporary revamp, allowing it to entertain a new generation of theatre goers and reach people who would never otherwise go to the opera.

This intimate and condensed version of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is endlessly amusing, equally charming, and a delight to the ears of both Opera stalwarts, and those new to the art form.

Like the Ugly Shakespeare Company does for the Bard’s work, Wanderlust makes opera relevant. It strips back the elitist sterotype of the genre and offers instead a whimsical and accessible version, while being uncompromising in the quality of the performance.

Directed by Jacqueline Coats with Georgia Jamieson Emms as the librettist and Bruce Greenfield as the musical director, Wanderlust’s version of this classic comic opera is a winner.

Don Pasquale, played adeptly by Stuart Coats, is a miserly bachelor who gets more than he bargains for when he enters into an arranged marriage.

The talented Craig Beardsworth as Dr Malatesta masterminds the storyline and hatches a plan to wed his sister to Don Pasquale. He presents his sister Norina as a shy young woman who has just left the nunnery and would be a docile housewife.

However, Norina is actually a firecracker, push-bike riding feminist who Kate Sheppard would love. She’s also engaged to Ernesto, Don Pasquale’s nephew, and would-be heir.

It’s fair to say the story is pleasantly entertaining, but it’s the voices of Georgia Jamieson Emms as Norina and Barbara Paterson as Ernesto that are the stars of the show. Just wow. They hit you right in the feels.  

When in duet, these dynamic two offer both moments of tenderness and hilarity, and can flick between the two in a heartbeat. And when all four on stage sing together, the impact is palpable.  

With modern references to everything from cryptocurrency, to A Star is Born, Meryl Streep and Downton Abbey, this passionate cast and crew gently bring this 175-year-old opera into the 21st Century.

Long may Wanderlust continue to bring opera to the masses in such an accessible and joyful way.