American Landmark Festivals (ALF) is presenting the comic opera “Don Pasquale” July 19 and 21 in the newly air-conditioned Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Gaetano Donizetti wrote the three-act work about Don Pasquale, a wealthy man who demands people obey him but doesn’t have much success in getting them to do so. The plot includes a headstrong nephew and a wife who turns out to be quite different than Pasquale expects her to be.
Sung in English, the full production has been staged and directed by Albert Bergeret, founder and artistic director of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and features a talented cast led by Metropolitan Opera veteran basso Ryan Allen and popular baritone Jimi James. Soprano Michelle Seipel and tenor Cameron Smith sing the demanding parts of the frustrated sweethearts, while smaller parts are sung by soprano Sarah Gilbert, baritone Glenn Friedman and outstanding local singers, including Hobart and William Smith Professor of Music Robert Cowles, Steve Kane, Mariami Bekauri and Garsevan Bekauri.
Laugh as the doddering old fool Pasquale is tricked into thinking he has wed the sweet, demure and innocent convent-raised Sofronia. But she’s really Norina, in love with Pasquale’s nephew whom he is trying to disinherit. Once “married,” she becomes a shrew who shows Pasquale that he was definitely better off without a wife.
Like Rossini’s frequently performed “The Barber of Seville,” “Don Pasquale” is among the most popular of comic Italian operas known as “opera buffa” in which the plot revolves around pranks and jokes played on a buffoon-like older man.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on July 19 and 2 p.m. on July 21. Tickets are $25 general admission, $35 per couple, $15 for a seniors and students, and are free for children K-12. VIP tickets for the Friday night performance are also available for $50 or $80 per couple. Those include preferred seating and a reception with the artists following the performance. Tickets are available at The Smith box office, by calling 315-781-5483 or online at www.thesmith.org. They are also available at Area Records & Music in Geneva, Rossi Music in Canandaigua and The Copy Shop in Seneca Falls.
Basso Allen has performed with the Metropolitan Opera and virtually every opera house in America-including Syracuse where he received an “Artist of the Year” award early in his career. A specialist in the classic basso buffo roles, he has performed the role of Pasquale 44 times. His brilliant performance at The Smith last summer of “The Barber of Seville” was his 100th rendition of that great Rossini opera.
James has one of the most spectacular baritone voices before the opera public today with stage presence, comic timing and impeccably clear diction that never fails to delight neophytes and the most knowledgeable opera aficionado. His career has taken him from the Syracuse Opera to major opera houses of America’s mid-west and east coast.
Coloratura Soprano Seipel includes acclaimed performances with Opera Vivente, the St. Petersburg Opera and Shreveport Opera where she was named “Singer of the Year.” Tenor Smith has performed with Lake George Opera, among others, and is featured in the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players productions.
Gilbert studied with Benton Hess in Italy and Martile Rowland in Colorado, and has a graduate degree from McGill University. Friedman has performed in San Francisco and the New York City metropolitan area. He has degrees in music, law and anthropology. Cowles is professor of music and department chair at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is artistic director of the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble and holds advanced degrees from Indiana University and the New England Conservatory of Music. A graduate of Eastman School of Music, Kane is the organist and choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church in Geneva and is heard often in the area as tenor soloist. A Geneva High School graduate, Bekauri just received degrees in physics and music from Wellesley College and begins graduate studies at Brown University in the fall. Bekauri has appeared in compromario parts in several summer operas under the direction of Bergeret, and is currently a student at Geneva High School where he is active in drama and recently won a statewide sports competition.
Hailed by New York Magazine as “the leading custodian of Gilbert & Sullivan classics,” Bergeret directs and conducts the entire 13-play repertory of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players and is resident stage director for the New York Grand Opera in Manhattan. His company just returned from a nationwide tour and his comic sensibilities have been hilariously displayed at the Smith Opera House in recent productions of “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Mikado,” “Cosi fan tutte,” “La Cenerentola” and “The Barber of Seville.”
Pianists Hilda Collins and Meg Heaton – both prominent area musicians and members of Geneva’s “Tuesday Quartet” – will also be heard in this production.
American Landmark Festivals is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the presentation of cultural and performing arts events in landmark venues, including the 1894 Smith Opera House with its exceptional acoustics. For more information, visit www.AmericanLandmarkFestivals.org.
The photo above features Professor of Music Robert Cowles.