It seems critical opinion on Trebs' second Met outing this year is running the gamut from 'self-serving' to 'irresistible', with the former assessment's implication that her performance is a lot of ham for the plebes who don't see the disgrace being done to the temple that is Don Pasquale.
So at the risk of debasing myself, and with full admittance of my relative ignorance/underappreciation of Don Pasquale's more sublime virtues, I'm going to have to come down on the side of 'irresistible'. Yes, she obviously thinks she is cuter than a puppy playing with a kitten being watched by a baby squirrel. And yes, her stage time is stuffed within an inch of its life with assorted tics and mannerisms.
But A) I concur with her about her cuteness and B) I think she makes a more than credible case for the character. It's not just Norina's ambition which permits her to inflict herself on Don Pasquale, it's her outsize, at times bordering on destructive, wicked amusement with life, declared from the moment she opens her mouth in Act I. The sort of mildly unhinged personality that would make her game for a such a crazy plan. The sort of unhinged personality we can't get enough of even if they go further than we would ever dare. Trebs gets that giddy manic recklessness in the character, and uses it to honestly bridge the cruelty she does. And I mean, I wouldn't be saying this if all the mugging had fallen flat. But it worked, and she was delightful, and after all, shouldn't stealing your scene kind of be the point here? With all due respect, hamming up Don Pasquale's knowing little comedy doesn't seem like quite the same infraction as crossing Mozart's holy farces (ahem).
Plus, she really does sound great. More and more, I'm thinking there may not be a role out there which her voice was born to sing. Taken in a vacuum, maybe it's just not distinctive enough in any one area? But it is hella sturdy, beautiful to listen to when its on, and most important, deeply integrated into the character she is portraying. More than just voice, or just chops, she presents a package, and plays it to the hilt. And that is why she deserves her stardom.
The rest of the cast was very strong, with the exception of some getting lost in the orchestra by Simone Alaimo. JDF was stunning, Kweesh just as satisfying as remembered, etc. The production design is a neither here nor there bit of Schenk-tastic-ness, but I'm thinking the world would probably be no poorer if it never saw Don Pasquale in anything other than a literal take on its original setting. The real action is in the vivacious staging--quite amazing that the same director who virtually bolts his actors to the floor in the 'Ring' feels free to let them scamper all over God's creation here.
So, again, if you have a vested interest in Don Pasquale, its possible you should stay away. If you want a night of comedic opera to actually make you gleeful--as bizarre as that sounds--then Trebs has what you need. Go to her.