Famous Italian opera singer Enzo Dara, who is presently performing for the first time in Greece, is both the director and the leading character in the National Opera’s latest production, Gaetano Donizetti’s «Don Pasquale.» The opera, a joint production with the Municipal Theater of Modena, opened at the Olympia Theater yesterday. «Don Pasquale,» first performed in 1843, is the last of the opera buffa, a trend that started with Pergolesi’s «La Serva Padrona» in the 18th century and reached its peak with Mozart’s works, as the National Opera’s artistic director, Loukas Karytinos, explained at a recent press conference. Dara also had some words to say: «I feel very honored to be in Athens. I am very happy to direct and lead in an opera which I consider to be a masterpiece of the Italian repertoire,» he said. «It is a comic role with a touch of melancholy,» Dara added and spoke warmly about his collaboration with the National Opera’s artists. Along with Rossini’s «Barber of Seville,» «Don Pasquale» is probably the most popular opera in Europe at present. There has recently been renewed interest in staging it. Before this, the standards of the shows were rather poor, especially productions in France and Germany. The show has already been staged in Modena and was very successful, yet Dara preferred to be cautious until after the Athens opening. Donizetti composed the opera in just 10 days, something he was very proud of. It was the result of his extensive experience (it was his 64th opera), but also used some of his older material, such as unfinished duets and other songs. The opera premiered in Paris on January 3, 1843, and met with an immediately enthusiastic response. Soon afterward, the production toured the world. The opera tells the story of the elderly Don Pasquale, who has decided to woo and win his nephew’s girlfriend and to disown the nephew, Ernesto. Norina, Ernesto’s love interest, marries Don Pasquale on purpose and treats him very badly, so that the elderly man is relieved to divorce her and allow his nephew to marry her. The production’s music is conducted by Nikos Athinaios in his first collaboration with the National Opera. The sets are by Mauro Pagano and the costumes by Giovanna Maresta. Dara alternates in the part of Don Pasquale with Dimitris Kasioumis, while Maria Mitsopoulou and Vassiliki Karayianni alternate in the role of Norina. «It is a very demanding role because it starts off in a very romantic way but ends up with Norina behaving like a tigress,» said Mitsopoulou, who made her debut in the same part in April 1991. Other cast members include Mario Zeffiri, Yiannis Christopoulos, Haris Andrianos, Costas Mavrogenis and Yiannis Koukoutaras. The opera will be staged tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday to Sunday.