GLOW’s ‘Don Pasquale’ a satisfying treat

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Paul Hyde | Metromix

As operas go, “Don Pasquale” is something of a cream puff.

It’s not surprising that Greenville Light Opera Works would treat Donizetti’s rich comedy more like a sugary confection than a substantial main course. Jenna Tamisiea’s energetic staging of the 1843 bel canto opera at Centre Stage revels in silliness with expansive gestures and considerable comic mugging by the cast.

Updated to 1950s Miami and sung in English, GLOW’s production of “Don Pasquale” may come off as occasionally overplayed, but the audience at Friday night’s performance clearly had a whale of a good time.

On the whole, the production is a spirited romp, featuring an attractive young cast with some terrific voices. The lighthearted story centers on the aging Don Pasquale who disinherits his nephew Ernesto for refusing to marry a wealthy bride. Ernesto has fallen in love with the poor, young widow Norina, so Pasquale decides to get married himself to produce his own heir. Ernesto and Norina then connive with the wily Doctor Malatesta to teach the Don a lesson.

In the end, love conquers all, and there’s a dandy little moral, too: Act your age.

As the engaging young couple at the heart of the opera, Joanie Brittingham as Norina and David Adams (Ernesto) are a particular treat. Brittingham is a petite ingénue with a big, lustrous voice and vivacious stage presence. She’s fully equal to the bravura demands of the role as well. Adams sings with a mellifluous tenor and a keen sense of legato phrasing. He shines especially in his Act III nocturnal serenade.

Joseph Hager’s Doctor Malatesta exhibits a suave and resonant lyric baritone. Patrick Jacobs embraces the role of Don Pasquale with gusto and a robust bass. The 1950s Miami setting brings colorful costumes and a droll beach motif to the proceedings. “Don Pasquale,” by the way, was Donizetti’s 64th opera — not a bad accomplishment for a composer who died at 50.

Christian Elser, GLOW’s general director, conducts an 11-piece orchestra, offering a generally buoyant account of Donizetti’s score, though with a few tentative patches and fleeting intonation problems.

One more performance of this charming production of “Don Pasquale” remains — today at 3 p.m. For tickets, call 864-233-6733.

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