Night & Day — Western New York’s performing arts world is one busy firmament these days. Theater, concerts and dance abound, which is why the Nickel City Opera’s presentation this weekend of “Don Pasquale” at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda seems both typical and exceptional.
While a portion of the audience will be, as always, experienced opera enthusiasts, this one seems custom-tailored for the novice. If you’ve never attended an opera, the goofy Italian masterpiece “Don Pasquale” in the elegant Riviera, a venue that resembles, it has been pointed out, a European opera house, is a great place to start.
“It’ll be a fun show,” promises artistic director Valerian Ruminski of this three-act opera buffa, or comic opera, by Gaetano Donizetti. “A good first opera, if they have never seen opera.”
The plot turns on an old guy and his ill-advised marriage to a young, hot babe (yes, this sort of thing was a stock theatrical device back in 1842, when the opera was composed). The music is melodic and memorable, and supertitles, above-the-stage running translations from Italian to English, will keep the audience apprised of developments.
More to the point is that we have a busy, thriving, full-scale opera company here in North Tonawanda. This is professional opera, with soloists, sets and scenery, costumes, an orchestra, a chorus — the works. In its fifth season, Nickel City Opera is established to the point of reliably scheduling two performances of opera annually, and assorted concerts, benefits and recitals as well.
Ruminski, the globetrotting basso who plays the title role here, is settling into his performing maturity by actually running an opera company in his hometown, and it is succeeding. This year’s performances are spread over three days instead of two, as in the past.