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Glyndebourne on Roll With De Niese: U.K. Stage Review

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Photographer: Clive Barda/Glyndebourne via Bloomberg

The cast of "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti at Glyndebourne. Director Mariame Clement places the story in a rococo setting.

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Photographer: Clive Barda/Glyndebourne via Bloomberg

The cast of "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti at Glyndebourne. Director Mariame Clement places the story in a rococo setting. Close

The cast of "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti at Glyndebourne. Director Mariame Clement places the story in a rococo setting.

Photographer: Clive Barda/Glyndebourne via Bloomberg

Danielle de Niese as Norina in "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti. Norina is first encountered reading old-fashioned romances and laughing at them. Close

Danielle de Niese as Norina in "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti. Norina is first encountered reading old-fashioned... Read More

Photographer: Clive Barda/Glyndebourne via Bloomberg

Nikolay Borchev and Danielle de Niese as Malatesta and Norina in "Don Pasquale." In this production, Norina is in love both with the tenor Ernesto and the baritone Malatesta. Close

Nikolay Borchev and Danielle de Niese as Malatesta and Norina in "Don Pasquale." In this production, Norina is in... Read More

Photographer: Clive Barda/Glyndebourne via Bloomberg

Alessandro Corbelli sings as Pasquale in "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti. In the play, Don Pasquale intends to disinherit his nephew and marry a young bride. Close

Alessandro Corbelli sings as Pasquale in "Don Pasquale" by Donizetti. In the play, Don Pasquale intends to disinherit... Read More

Photographer: Pari/Cornershop PR via Bloomberg

Jane Leaney as Dolores Gray in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable" at Temple Studios. Dolores is a film star working at Temple Studios. Close

Jane Leaney as Dolores Gray in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable" at Temple Studios. Dolores is a film star working... Read More

Photographer: Pari/Cornershop PR via Bloomberg

Fionn Cox-Davies and Sophie Bortolussi as Marshall and Wendy in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable." . An introductory slip of paper informs audience members entering the studio that two simultaneous stories of adultery are being enacted throughout the evening. Close

Fionn Cox-Davies and Sophie Bortolussi as Marshall and Wendy in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable." . An... Read More

Photographer: Pari/Cornershop PR via Bloomberg

Omar Gordon and Laure Bachelot as William and Mary in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable." There are two adulterous couples in the play. Close

Omar Gordon and Laure Bachelot as William and Mary in "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable." There are two adulterous... Read More

Opera productions are often updated. Backdating, now that’s a different matter.

It works a treat in Mariame Clement’s production of “Don Pasquale” at Glyndebourne. The plot of Donizetti’s comedy was originally set in the 1840s, when the piece was composed. Clement puts a neat spin on it by pushing it back into the 1780s. Suddenly it looks like “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Some roots of the opera, which is about a blustery authority figure trying to get the heroine all to himself just as in Mozart’s work, are cleverly exposed.

There’s a chance to fill the stage with fabulous Fragonard-type frocks too.

Danielle de Niese stars as Norina, a minx who pretends to be an innocent ingenue in order to teach old Pasquale a lesson. She gives a lesson herself, in showing how to convey emotion with precision and detail. She’s funny and keeps a hint of mystery.

Alessandro Corbelli is a delight as Pasquale, and does his buffo routines beautifully. He finds some pathos in the role, inviting you to feel sorry for such a delusional old man.

One of Clement’s innovations is to suggest that Norina is in love not just with the tenor hero Ernesto. She’s also in love with the fixer (baritone Nikolay Borchev) who sets up the pretense subterfuge.

This twist doesn’t work so well, partly because Borchev lacks the skills to make his character worthy of such a livewire Norina. Partly it’s due to the director’s occasional fuzziness of tone. The switches between serious and funny don’t always come off, leaving behind moments which are neither.

There was compensation in the handsome presence of young Sicilian tenor Enea Scala, who stood in for an indisposed Alek Shrader as Ernesto. Blessed with a high and easy lyric voice, he’s sure of some more major roles in the future.

There’s sensationally sparky conducting from Enrique Mazzola too. Glyndebourne’s on a roll. Rating: ****.

Drowned Man

Theater company Punchdrunk has become famous for its site-specific immersive events, such as “Sleep No More” in New York. The latest, “The Drowned Man,” takes place in a large mail sorting office near Paddington Station, London.

The set, over four floors, conjures up a surreal American town with a film studio sometime in the early 1960s. You can wander round darkened corridors, shops, apartments and film lots at will. Sometimes you’ll come across actors performing scenes.

Every audience member will have a different experience of the show. The trouble is that the performers, disconnected from any coherent narrative, have to rely on frantic overacting to create interest in their fragmented scenes. It gives you even less reason to get emotionally involved with them.

There are some murders at the end, and the whole thing is based on Buchner’s “Woyzeck.” Who cares? Ultimately it’s a cold and patronizing piece -- the opposite of immersive, in fact. Rating: **.

“Don Pasquale” is in repertoire at Glyndebourne. http://www.glyndebourne.com +44-12273-815000.

“The Drowned Man” is at “Temple Studios.” For information: http://bit.ly/15uj615 or +44-20-7452-3000.

Muse highlights include Hephzibah Anderson on books, John Mariani on wine, Greg Evans on television and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.

(Warwick Thompson is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Warwick Thompson, in London, at warwicktho@aol.com or https://twitter.com/ThompsonWarwick.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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