The acoustics of the Orpheum Theatre make it a terrific venue for opera.
Wichita Grand Opera presented an updated staging of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “Don Pasquale,” set in current-day Wichita, in the historic theater Saturday evening.
“Don Pasquale” lends itself well to such alterations in time and place. Last year, in a performance at Century II, the WGO set the opera in St. Louis in the 1950s. The current production borrowed heavily on last year’s concept with good result.
The principals in this production shone.
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William Powers delivered a compelling portrayal of Don Pasquale with rich, powerful singing and charismatic acting. Michael Nansel, reprising his role as Dr. Malatesta from last season’s production, was outstanding. Sharin Apostolou played Norina with coquettish guile, charm and humor. Apostolou’s voice has shimmer and beauty, and she has wonderful control. Dustin Peterson’s portrayal of Ernesto was engaging. His voice is silvery and expressive.
Initially the orchestra playing was not equal to the level of singing, but over the course of the performance ensemble and tuning improved.
The modest size of the Orpheum pit required some creative problem solving. Even with personnel trimmed to a minimum, the percussion and piano needed to be positioned in the front row of the hall. The percussionists played in excellent balance with the rest of the orchestra. During the quieter sections of this performance it was difficult for the musicians to play in time and tune with the piano in its remote location.
The chorus dispatched their duties adequately, but without a lot of dimension.
The Wichita Grand Opera is to be commended for continuing to enhance the appreciation of opera and for bringing full scale productions to the historic theaters of Kansas.