"It's going to be magic," says Rob Herriot, director of Manitoba Opera's production of Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti, running Nov. 23, 26 and 29.

The company describes Don Pasquale as "a cowboy-sized helping of rib-tickling laughter complete with a hero who enjoys a bubble bath surrounded by bar girls and a Mariachi band. The Don is looking for a quiet, obedient little housewife, but instead lassoes himself a highfalutin fireball who is ready to empty his pockets quicker than you can say 'Giddyup.'"

This wild west version of the opera stars one of the most in-demand performers, Peter Strummer, as the Don, who lives and breathes this kind of role, says Herriot.

Strummer was born in Vienna but grew up in Winnipeg and returns often to the city.

The story of the opera concerns an old bachelor, Don Pasquale, who decides to punish his nephew, and heir, Ernesto for being disobedient. He does so by marrying a young girl, Norina, who is actually in love with Ernesto.

Peter Strummer as Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale (Peter Strummer) is surrounded by an appreciative crowd in the opening act of Manitoba Opera's production of Donizetti's comic opera Don Pasquale. (Robert Tinker)

As soon as the marriage has taken place and his fortune is signed over to her, Norina's personality changes from modest and obedient to wilful and extravagant and the Don realizes his mistake.

Strummer has performed this basso buffo, or comic bass type of role for 40 years.

"I must say that it's always a challenge to do so because you have to balance that character with humanity in order to make it real and in order to understand it. It's not just slapstick, it's not just dropping your pants to get a laugh. 

"I would say it is the most human of all comic operas," he continued. "It's very poignant and it's very funny."

Strummer is pleased to be performing with another former Winnipegger, Nikki Einfeld, who plays Norina. Einfeld is a former student of Winnipeg singer Tracy Dahl, with whom Strummer has frequently performed.

"To have one of her proteges sing this role is really a treat," he said.

"Nikki is incredibly smart and beautiful and she's a real pistol on stage. She makes a wonderful foil."

Rounding out the cast are Michele Angelini as Ernesto and Brett Polegato as Dr. Malatesta. Tyrone Patterson leads the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.