Scene 1 – Don Pasquale’s mansion
Don Pasquale is an old film star from the silent movie era as famous as the great Norma Desmond. He lives in an old mansion on Sunset Boulevard that is as devoid of color as his old black-and-white films. His ward and nephew, Ernesto, has refused an arranged marriage, proclaiming his love for Norina, a popular Hollywood starlet. Don Pasquale, outraged, decides to disinherit the boy and beget his own heirs. To do this he needs a wife, and he has called on a family friend, Dr. Malatesta, to help him find one. Malatesta, siding with Ernesto and Norina, crafts a plan to teach the headstrong Pasquale a lesson. He glowingly describes to him his beautiful and completely imaginary sister and tells him that the girl is in love with him. Before long, the old bachelor is convinced he loves the girl and expresses his desire to marry her with Technicolor enthusiasm. Furthermore, he is prepared to cut Ernesto out of his will. Unaware that Dr. Malatesta has a plot afoot; Ernesto grows bitter at the apparent betrayal by his good friend, Malatesta.
Scene 2 – A Hollywood Soundstage
Shooting a scene from her next Hollywood movie, Norina’s screen persona boasts about knowing all the tricks to win a man’s love. Malatesta arrives and reveals to Norina his plans for fooling Don Pasquale: Norina is to enact the role of Malatesta’s sister, wed the old bachelor in a fake ceremony and then drive him so crazy with her whims and demands that he will be eager to find a way out of the unpleasant staged marriage. Malatesta hires local stage hands to help out, but there is no time to tell Ernesto.
Don Pasquale’s mansion
Realizing that he will never be able to marry Norina without his inheritance, Ernesto laments his situation as passionately as any of his uncle’s silent films. When he leaves, Malatesta arrives with Don Pasquale’s “bride” and introduces her to Pasquale who is outlandishly dressed in an old costume worthy of Rudolph Valentino. Without further delay, a ceremony takes place, during which Ernesto returns and is forced to witness the contract, and he is finally told what is afoot. As soon as the mock ceremony ends, Norina turns into a fiery shrew who torments Don Pasquale with her nasty short temper and extravagant ways.
Scene 1 – Don Pasquale’s mansion
Having turned Don Pasquale’s mansion into a kind of Hearst Castle, Norina invites the elite of the Hollywood film world to cavort at Don Pasquale’s expense. Exquisitely gowned, Norina brazenly leaves the house to attend a late-night concert, and as part of the plan, she drops a letter where Don Pasquale will find it. It is a love letter from Ernesto, inviting her to a rendezvous in the garden of the Hollywood Bowl. Don Pasquale realizes that he cannot endure the situation any longer. Furious, he calls Malatesta, who promises to fix everything.
Scene 2 – The garden of the Hollywood Bowl
Disguised as a Hollywood crooner, Ernesto sings a love song to Norina, who responds fervently for Don Pasquale’s eaves-dropping ears. Don Pasquale springs upon the conspirators, who then happily reveal their plot. Immensely relieved to discover that his marriage has been like scenes from a popular Hollywood comedy, Don Pasquale forgives everyone involved and happily gives Norina to Ernesto.
– synopsis courtesy of Arizona Opera