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Lyric Opera tweaks ‘Don Pasquale’ with American touches

Lyric Opera of the North’s production of “Don Pasquale,” a three-act comic opera, plays at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium. (Photo by Todd Higgins)

The mischief-making doctor is swiping his way toward a case of cellphone finger.

The new wife isn’t completely dissimilar from a certain famous-for-being-famous E!-rated celeb.

And the title character’s shelves resemble those of a pharmacological wholesaler.

Lyric Opera of the North is promising all sorts of little touches in its production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale,” set in the now and performed in English. The three-act comic opera plays at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium.

The comedy is the story of Pasquale, longtime bachelor who has decided to take a wife, so he can claim an inheritance over his nephew, Ernesto. Meanwhile, his buddy Dr. Malatesta is pulling some shady shenanigans behind the scenes that involve Ernesto’s true love, Norina.

Here are some fun facts about LOON’s take on Donizetti’s most popular opera.

1. Lyric Opera of the North lost its Ernesto late in the game, but was able to replace him with tenor Gennard Lombardozzi. The good news: Lombardozzi has sung the role of Don Pasquale’s nephew in the past. The twist on the good news for this sung-in-English production: He has performed it only in Italian, according to company co-director Sarah Lawrence.

“We’re accommodating him in a surprise way,” Lawrence said.

Lombardozzi has recently been Edgardo in “Lucia di Lammermoor” with Taconic Opera, Camille in “The Merry Widow” with Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Rodolfo in “La Boheme” with the New York Grand Opera and had the title role in “La Clemenza di Tito” with Occasional Opera Company.

2. “Don Pasquale” is considered part of the opera bouffe genre — comic operas with buffoon-ish main character, a subset that includes operas like “The Barber of Seville” and “Falstaff.”

This particular opera marked the end of this style’s popularity, Lawrence said.

3. LOON’s titular character is sung by Rod Nelman, who has been on the roster at the Metropolitan Opera since 2009. Lawrence described his Don Pasquale as “so darn loveable.”

“He’s so charming that everyone is going to be cheering for him,” she said.

4. In some ways, the role of Norina bears a likeness to the newly minted Mrs. West. But just in fashion sense, Lawrence said.

5. This production is directed by Robert Neu, who directed Skylark Opera’s production in 2009 with two performers singing the same roles they did five years ago: Nelman and Jeffrey Madison, who is Malatesta. The performance, which was part of an annual summer festival, earned raves from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“‘Don Pasquale’ came close to being a perfect opera production,” according to a reviewer. “Director Robert Neu handled the classic farce with assured aplomb.”

Neu teaches in the University of Minnesota’s opera department and is the resident director at Lyric Arts in Anoka, Minn.

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