Houstonian Wesley Landry has a juicy role in the comedy Don Pasquale, the latest production by Opera in the Heights, a 2013 Houston Press MasterMinds Award winner. Landry plays Dr. Malatesta, (he shares the role with Octavio Moreno) friend and physician to the cantankerous Don Pasquale (sung by Stefano de Peppo). Don Pasquale's nephew Ernesto (Eric Bowden) is in love with Norina (Julia Engel and Katie Dixon in alternating casts), a widow Don Pasquale thinks is unsuitable. When Ernesto rejects the bride his uncle has selected for him, the ill-natured Don Pasquale decides to disinherit him and marry a young bride who will (hopefully) give him more pliable sons.
Dr. Malatesta and Ernesto think Pasquale is far too old to be chasing young women and set out to teach the meddling curmudgeon a lesson. They convince Norina to pose as Sofronia, a docile, submission woman. As Sofronia, she'll pretend to marry Don Pasquale only to become a shrew once the wedding vows are said.
"[The doctor is] the mastermind behind the whole plot against Don Pasquale," Landry tells us. "He wants Ernesto to be happy. And he also wants Don Pasquale to realize that he's sort of a cantankerous, unreasonable old man."
Needless to say, things get more than slightly out of control. " "It's a terrible prank to play on him," Landry admits. "We all love Don Pasquale and we don't want to hurt him, but we do want to teach him a lesson."
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Landry jokes that he worked on memorizing his role studiously for this production. Not only is Stefano de Peppo, who appears as Don Pasquale, Italian and so would notice any lines flubbed by the rest of the cast, he's made the role something of a signature.
As Dr. Malatesta Landry, along with the other main characters, is on stage for most of the show. "It's exhausting," he says, "but also a lot of fun. Toward the end of the show, Don Pasquale and [my character] have a very famous comic duet. It's always a crowd-pleaser and it's always a joy to perform. You have to spend so much time practicing this piece that's 20 pages long and has eight million words in it and you have to sing it at lightening speed. But once you're done with it, it's a thrill because you've conquered the beast."
Opera in the Heights' Artistic Director Enrique Carreón-Robledo, profiled in our 100 Creatives series last year, will be at the podium.
See Don Pasquale at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m Sundays. Through November 24. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. For information, call 713-861-5303 or visit the company's website. $32 to $59.