You can't accuse Glyndebourne of having a house style for Donizetti comedies. Two summers ago, it presented L'Elisir d'Amore, in an affectionate, feelgood staging by Annabel Arden. This summer it is the turn of Don Pasquale, with the same conductor and leading lady. But Mariame Clément's production, first seen on the Glyndebourne tour in 2011, is distinctly feelbad.

Perhaps it's an understandable response to an opera that can seem to have as much cruelty as comedy. Who, after all, are we supposed to root for? Irascible, unpleasant old Don Pasquale, or those who mercilessly dupe him? This is a problem for every director, but Clément's approach, which only fleetingly shows the characters' humanity, allows for few laughs, and makes even those feel like a guilty pleasure.

Julia Hansen's revolving set is put to good use, especially during the overture, when we see Dr Malatesta slinking through the other characters' rooms – and Norina's, we come to understand, is a room that he has seen a lot. But who is he meant to be? Clément's conception of him is murky, and any focus the character has is mostly down to Nikolay Borchev's classy singing.

Thank goodness, then, for the veteran baritone Alessandro Corbelli, whose performance in the title role oozes stagecraft. Danielle de Niese is as sparky and watchable as ever as the scheming Norina, but the music really requires a fuller, nimbler voice. Enea Scala, a late stand-in who also sang Ernesto on the 2011 tour, has a vibrant, Mediterranean tenor, and if the small notes aren't always perfectly tuned, the big ones hit the spot. The chorus, done up as bewigged, foppish observers who revel in the characters' misfortunes, sing their few passages well, and Enrique Mazzola, conducting a poised, energetic London Philharmonic, keeps the score on the boil. But there are more smiles from the pit than from the stage.

• Streamed live on theguardian.com/glyndebourne on 6 August.

Contributor

Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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