Don Pasquale is an opera buffa, or comic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The composer and Giovanni Ruffini wrote the Italian libretto after Angelo Anelli's libretto for Stefano Pavesi's Ser Marcantonio (1810).
At the time of its composition, Donizetti had just been appointed music director and composer for the imperial court of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and Don Pasquale was the 64th of an eventual 66 operas he composed.
The opera, in the tradition of opera buffo, harkens back to the stock characters of the commedia dell'arte. Pasquale is recognizable as the blustery Pantaleone, Ernesto as the lovesick Pierrot, Malatesta as the scheming Scapino, and Norina as a wily Columbina. The false Notary echos a long line of false officials as operatic devices.
Don Pasquale was first produced on January 3, 1843 at the Théâtre Italien, Paris in 1843.
Ernesto, nephew of Don Pasquale, is in love with Norina, and has refused to marry a "more suitable" woman chosen for him by Don Pasquale. The old man accordingly plans to wed and produce his own heirs. His physician, Dr. Malatesta, suggests his sister, Sofronia, a convent girl, as the bride. The Don accepts, and Norina disguises herself as Sofronia and signs a marriage contract before a supposed notary. Norina now behaves like a shrew, making life so miserable for the old man that he is relieved when he discovers that he has been duped. He repudiates his desire for marriage and consents to the union of his nephew with Norina.
ACT I. Introduction between Don Pasquale and the doctor. (Romance of Malatesta: “Oh, like an angel of beauty”; Cavatina, Pasquale: “Oh, how I feel the glow of fire in my heart”; Duet between Ernesto and Pasquale: “How? You will? Marry me.”) Change of scene: Norina’s cavatina:, Ah, beneath all eyes”; Duet between Norina and the doctor: “See, I am ready with love to surround him.”
ACT II. Ernesto alone; then Pasquale, Norina, doctor. (Terzett: “Take courage”; Finale: “On one side,” etc.)
ACT III. Chorus: “Bring the jewels at once”; Duet between Pasquale and Norina: “Dear wife, may I ask”; Duet between Pasquale and the doctor: “Softly in the dark.” Change of scene: Ernesto’s serenade: “As Luna laughs in the fragrant night”; Duct between Ernesto and Norina “Do I read in your looks ?“ Finale: “Heaven, what do you say? This is Norina.”