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Donizetti's 'Don Pasquale'

Creative artists react in different ways to fame and fortune. Some take the riches they've earned, lie back contentedly, then disappear from the spotlight. Others keep right on plugging — perhaps because their creative instincts are too strong to ignore, or maybe fearing that their muse will eventually depart and they'd better take advantage while they still can.

Take the examples of three of history's most wildly successful opera composers: Gioacchino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi. All three had so many hits, so quickly, that they might well have opted for early retirement — and two of them took that option.

Faced with changing musical tastes and a fat bank account, Verdi first slowed his pace a bit and then took about a decade off before a brief comeback in his 70s that resulted in Otello and Falstaff, two of his greatest works. Verdi wound up with a catalog of about 28 operas — give or take a revision or two.

Rossini finished William Tell, his 39th opera, in 1829. Then he settled into a comfortable retirement and lived nearly 40 more years without ever writing another one.

Donizetti was another story. He was also a spectacular success; there was a time during his career when one of every four operas performed in Italy was his, and his fortune was clearly made. But unlike Verdi and Rossini, Donizetti kept right on going. He composed until the bitter end, when his health finally failed him, reaching a total of more than 60 operas, ranging from stark tragedy to brilliant comedy.

On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Don Pasquale, a true masterpiece from Donizetti's lighter side. It's one of the funniest operas ever composed, but it also shines with Donizetti's trademark touch of gentle pathos. The production is from the Grand Theatre of Geneva, with soprano Patrizia Ciofi as Norina, and baritone Simone Alaimo in the title role.

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