CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA was the winner in an opera competition for its composer Pietro Mascagni and premiered in Rome in 1890. Its first American performance was held in New York in 1891 directed by Oscar Hammerstein, the grandfather of the great American lyricist. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci premiered in Milan in 1892. The two operas were performed together as early as 1893.
Opera lovers are a hungry lot & one short opera of say 1.5 hours is not long enough to satiate an operaphile’s appetite. Due to their common themes of infidelity and revenge ‘Cav & Pag’, as they are affectionately known, have been performed regularly since the late 19th century.
Director Damiano Michieletto has brought his highly original Royal Opera production here from the UK. He sets both operas in the same village in around the 1950s and, unusually, the three male leads are played by the same singers – Diego Torre, Jose Carbo and Samuel Dundas. However the two female leads are different – in Cavalleria Rusticana it’s Dragana Radakovic – in Pagliacci it’s Anna Princeva.
Diego Torre also makes this production especially distinctive as he is one of the very few tenors to sing the lead in both operas. He joins a unique club which includes Benjamino Gigli, Placido Domingo & Jonas Kaufmann,
Both productions have cross plots and with a triangulated set of scenes on a revolving stage doing away with the necessity of curtain raising and dropping means there is no loss of tension as both tragedies build to their inevitable crescendos.
With glorious arias, the wonderful voices of the Australian Opera Chorus and Children’s Choir, passionate & committed performances by the leads and with the Opera’s orchestra at full throttle under the musical direction of Andrea Licati. This production has had excellent word of mouth. A sellout season seems assured,
This Opera Australia production is playing the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until the 4th February.
Images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).