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Review: It’s almost all LOLs at LOON’s updated ‘Don Pasquale’ opera

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He’s a bachelor. You can see in his well-worn pajamas and the robe that could potentially be used in place of a napkin. He’s a hunched man, shuffling on slippers to his chair.

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His home is back-dated to the dawn of the mustard hues and it’s cluttered with stacks of papers. But the artistic bust and bookcases suggest a certain amount of wealth — a history of family financial success probably originating from one of the men whose likeness is captured in portraiture on the wall.

But his luck is about to change, a couple times over actually, in Lyric Opera of the North’s laugh-out-loud production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale.”

The comic opera set in the now, complete with cellphones and selfies, played for a close to capacity audience on Thursday’s opening night at Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium. LOON’s production, sung (mostly) in English, includes a 20-plus-piece orchestra with conductor Dirk Meyer.

The titular character, sung by Rod Nelman, has promised his inheritance to his nephew Ernesto, but he lacks confidence in the younger man’s love interest, Norina. The old man hatches a plan with his

confidante Dr. Malatesta: Pasquale will marry the doc’s sister and leave the money to her. Ernesto

is out.

The plan brings an insta youthfulness and revives the aged bachelor. Pasquale, played as a lovable innocent it pains to see duped, is able to cast aside the oxygen tank and turn his walker into a dance partner (at least until the maid shows up).

Malatesta, sung by LOON regular Jeffrey Madison, is a giddy havoc creator. Like he might just be mixing things up to keep himself entertained. He stops mid-song to answer his phone. He orders green curry. He tests the fourth wall.

He arranges for Norina to become his knee-knockingly shy sister Sofronia. She will marry Pasquale then she will terrorize Pasquale to the point where he gives his blessing to the Ernesto-Norina union.

Ernesto (Gennard Lombardozzi) is first seen in a tennis pose with a sweater wrapped around his shoulders. He’s got the natural sprawl of the spoiled — until he learns of his disinheritance. Then he tucks his Wilson racquet against his chest like a security blanket and moans about his fate.

Norina (Sarah Lawrence) is a girlie-girl, poking at a pink iPad then preening and plucking in the mirror. After conniving with Malatesta she is presented to Pasquale as inexperienced and shy and hidden beneath a dark veil. After the paperwork is signed, she strips down to reveal a hot-tempered, big-spending, self-portrait procuring antagonist whose pack of servants resemble an entourage. She enters the room beneath a shower of glitter.

A nasty faceoff with her new husband silenced Thursday’s audience — which until then had been quick with well-earned laughs. The moment gave Norina an extra layer, one that wonders how far is too far when it comes to scheming.

The first half of this two-plus-hour production has all the hammy character developing moments that play in a fun and sitcom-like way.

After the intermission, the chorus is introduced as a crew of servants who perform hand-clapping, knee-slapping choreography, creeping out of the woodwork to provide backing vocals as the jig expires on Pasquale’s lawn.

And of course, as is the way in a modern opera, it all ends with selfies.

If you go

What: Lyric Opera of the North’s production of “Don Pasquale” by Gaetano Donizetti

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium, 3215 W. Third St.

Tickets: Start at $25; available at loonopera.com or by calling (218) 464-0922

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