Bay Street Theater in collaboration with Divaria Productions and Spanish opera company Rioja Lirica will present Donizetti’s classic comedic masterpiece, Don Pasquale.
In this version of Don Pasquale, while remaining true to the magnificent music of Donizetti, Divaria Production attempts to distance themselves from the classic image of the romantic opera to situate it in an atemporal and minimalist world and highlight the essential spirit of the music and of each of the characters. They transform one of the most classic operas into a musical comedy, maintaining the essence of a story which, although written 172 years ago, still hints of modern day issues. Perhaps today it is not as common for parents to force their children to marry someone against their will but how many children still opt to study something because it is the family tradition or because it is more accepted socially?
The opera tells the story of the miserly uncle Don Pasquale, intent on disinheriting his nephew Ernesto if he refuses to marry one of his uncle’s chosen suitors. To spite his nephew, Don Pasquale decides to take his own wife, Sofronia, the sister of his good friend Doctor Malatesta, Unbeknownst to him however Sofronia is actually Ernesto’s lover Norina in disguise, who plans to teach him a lesson.
This production was presented in March 2015 at the Rioja Forum in Logroño, Spain to great acclaim, hailed by La Rioja as an “artistic triumph” and a “stupendous creation”.
With his "deep, warm bass voice and an informed musicality" Jorge Ocasio (Don Pasquale) is quickly becoming a favorite of audiences and music critics. In a glowing review of his recent Dulcamara one New York critic wrote: "Jorge Ocasio steals the show in 'Elixir.' The role of Dr. Dulcamara was vividly brought to life by Jorge Ocasio who, like the great singing actor Tito Gobbi, could instantly grip the audience's attention. Most recently, Mr. Ocasio had the honor of singing as the cantor for His Holiness Pope Francis in the nationally televised Vespers mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He also reprised Dulcamara in a company début with Wichita Grand Opera and sang his first Don Pasquale in New York. Other performance highlights include triumphs as Dulcamara and Leporello with Houston's Opera in the Heights, Leporello and Il Commendatore with El Dorado Opera in Los Angeles, Balthazar (Amahl and the Night Visitors) in New York City and Los Angeles, Il Commendatore at Teatro del Barrio and principal roles in Puerto Rico's Puccini Gala and soloist in J.S. Bach's humorous "Coffee Cantata" at the X Festival of Music in Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Ashley Bell (Norina) has performed as a soloist in the United States, Italy, Spain, France and Russia. Recent performances have included Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte in the Narni Festival in Italy with the Orchestra Filarmonica di Roma, Norina in Don Pasquale in Spain where she was called "unstoppable in her brilliant singing and a true stage animal in her interpretation of the character", Beauty in Giannini’s Beauty and the Beast, Mimi in La Bohème and Katrina in Legend of Sleepy Hollow with Di Capo Opera, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro with Teatro Lirico D'Europa and Opera New Hampshire, and Molpe in Choreo Theatro’s world premiere of the Odyssey at the 92nd Street Y. Ms. Bell is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University, a recipient of Yale’s Browne Irish Performing Arts Award and speaks five languages fluently. Upcoming performances include her debut as Gilda in Rigoletto with New Jersey Verismo Opera and recitals in the US and Italy.
David Guzman (Ernesto) the Colombian tenor, is quickly rising in the large arena of opera and oratorio. With reviewers praising his exquisite beauty of tone and impeccable musicianship, audiences are keeping their eye on the up and coming tenor as he recently thrilled them in his portrayal of Rafael of Foglia in Martinez's To Cross the Face of the Moon with Lyric Opera of San Diego, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, performances at the famed Theatre du Chatelet in Paris and this fall with Arizona Opera. Guzman made his Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in Misa Azteca by Gonzalez with Mid-America Productions followed by performances of Mozart's Coronation Mass at Alice Tully Hall and Mozart’s Vespers at Avery Fisher Hall with DCINY in New York City. Other credits include The Duke in Rigoletto with North Shore Opera Festival in New York, Rodolfo in La Bohème with Opera in the Heights in Houston, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with Divaria Productions, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi with Salt Marsh Opera and the Duke in Rigoletto with Tampa Opera.
James Wright (Malatesta) described by critics as "tremendous," "entertaining" and "talented," baritone James Wright is a favorite among audiences for his charismatic presence and warm tone. Recent operatic roles include Richard White in the world premiere of Alice Ryley by Michael Ching with Sherrill Milnes, and the Savannah Voice Festival. Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with Nickel City Opera, The Sacristan in Puccini’s Tosca and Rev. Gruffydd in Roger Ames’ How Green was My Valley with El Paso Opera. Other operatic roles include The Pilot in Portman’s The Little Prince, Papageno in The Magic Flute, John Sorel in The Consul, Valentin in Gounod's Faust, Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Schaunard in La Bohéme and King Melchior in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. James has performed in concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Savannah Voice Festival, Camerata di Sant' Antonio, Nickel City Opera, Opera Sacra, Rochester Lyric Opera, and Amherst Symphony Orchestra among others. Learn more at www.jameswrightbaritone.com
Fabio Bezuti (Pianist) Brazilian pianist Fabio Bezuti has been invited to perform at international opera festivals and recitals in Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, U.S. and Switzerland, and has collaborated with renowned musicians and directors such as Benita Valente, Richard Leech, Catherine Malfitano, Mignon Dunn, Mark Oswald, Richard Stilwell, Sharon Sweet, Deborah Birnbaum, Ashley Putnam, Nova Thomas, Edith Bers and Marc Verzat. Always striving to challenge himself, Mr. Bezuti performed, not only as a pianist and vocal coach, but as a musical director and pianist for Charles Wuorinen’s opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (based upon the book by Salman Rushdie) and as a conductor in the production of the opera A Dinner Engagement by Lennox Berkeley. Some of the most important titles Mr. Bezuti has collaborated on are: Verdi’s Falstaff and Rigoletto, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ravel’s L'enfant et les Sortilèges, Offenbach’s Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Bartók’s Bluebeard's Castle, and Menotti’s The Medium and Amelia al Ballo. Currently, Mr. Bezuti is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at Manhattan School of Music, and has been performing recitals in New York, Philadelphia and other major U.S. cities. In the past two years, Mr. Bezuti has performed at Weill Recital Hall and Isaac Stern Auditorium, both at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Anton Armendariz (director) is the artistic director of La Rioja Lirica opera company in Spain. His directing experience began in short videos, being a finalist for the productions of Serjei and Imprudencia in the Barcelona Film Festival. He directed several documentaries about climbing in the Himalayas and is currently preparing a remake of the film Paranoia to be shot in New York next year. He studied film direction with Eduardo Gil and interpretation with the Professor of the Institut de Teatre de Barcelona, stage director Jordi Godall. His passion for music soon led him to form the company Rioja Lirica where he has directed many successful productions including, L’Elisir D’Amore, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte,El Barberillo de Lavapies, La Voix Humaine, Mozart’s Dream (a show based on the Da Ponte trilogy), La Traviata, Las Heroinas de la Zarzuela and La Dolorosa. Upcoming productions that he will direct include El barberillo de Lavapies with RiojaLirica and Le Nozze di Figaro at the Narni Festival in Italy. This version of Don Pasquale has been presented already to great acclaim at the RiojaForum in Logroño, Spain.