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Don Pasquale: Matthew Chellis (Ernesto) with chorus member Shelly Fullerton in the Calgary Opera production. (Opera in Review: Calgary).

The jokes were clever and the spaghetti real as Calgary Opera opened its new season with Donizetti's Don Pasquale, the company's first-ever spaghetti Western. Beginning with manager Bob McFee's witty opening remarks and lasting until the final outdoor cook-out at the OK Choral, the opera took the audience on a hilarious tour of our cowboy past.

Even in its day, Don Pasquale was often played in modern dress. In this production, however, Don Pasquale is the wealthy owner of a Western hotel; his nephew, Ernesto, a type of Billy the Kid ne'er-do-well; Dr. Malatesta a self-satisfied Wyatt Earp with a stethoscope; and Norina a Western girl-next-door who knows how to handle herself and, importantly, how to get her man.

In the title role Steven Condy, a natural comedian, effortlessly blended Italian and Western farce, his portrayal at once humorous and sympathetic. Not a singer of great vocal power or bass depth, he was nevertheless fully adequate, his characterization spot on. The role of Norma was a perfect match for Tracy Dahl's considerable comic talents and even greater vocal gifts. Singing in top form, she provided the classiest singing, her top register ringing and radiant, and her smooth singing beautiful and expressive.

Tenor Matthew Chellis (Ernesto) has a somewhat unusual vocal timbre, but he employed his clear, if somewhat unsubtle, sound to good comic effect as the cowhand nephew. Making the most of every facet of his role, Theodore Baerg was a first class Dr. Malatesta, his ample baritone technically assured and his grasp of character the most nuanced and complete of the principals. This was a performance that could hardly be bettered.

The sets and costumes, a joint production with several Western companies, were imaginative and eminently suited the flavor of the production, which was superbly directed by David Gately. Endlessly clever and witty, he milked the comic situations for their humor while never (well, hardly ever) stooping to pure slapstick. Conductor Daniel Beckwith continued to impress, the pacing crisp but not frantic and the expressive parts lyrically sweet.
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Author:DeLong, Kenneth
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera Review
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 22, 2002
Previous Article:I Pagliacci. (Opera in Review: Edmonton).
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