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Thread: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at the Met

          
   
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at the Met

    Cavalleria Rusticana, opera in one act, sung in Italian
    Music by Pietro Mascagni
    Libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play and short story written by Giovanni Verga
    Premiered on May 17, 1890, at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome, Italy

    Pagliacci, opera in one prologue and two acts, sung in Italian
    Music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo
    Premiered on May 21, 1892, at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan, Italy

    This is a review of the Metropolitan Opera's 694th performance of Cavalleria Rusticana and the 736th of Pagliacci, in double bill on January 25, 2018, attended in person at the opera house

    The operas share the same production crew. They are productions by Sir David McVicar, with sets designed by Rae Smith, costumes by Moritz Junge, lighting by Paule Constable, and choreography by Andrew George. The Vaudeville consultant for Pagliacci was Emil Wolk. This revival of McVicar's productions was stage-directed by Louisa Muller.

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Nicola Luisotti
    Chorus Master Donald Palumbo

    Casts

    Cavalleria Rusticana

    Turiddu - Opera Lively interviewee Roberto Alagna
    Santuzza - Ekaterina Semenchuck
    Mamma Lucia - Jane Brunnel
    Alfio - George Ganidze
    Lola - Rihab Chaieb
    Peasant woman - Elizabeth Brooks

    Pagliacci

    Tonio - George Ganidze
    Canio - Opera Lively interviewee Roberto Alagna
    Beppe - Andrew Bidlack
    Villagers - Daniel Peretto and Jeremy Little
    Nedda - Opera Lively interviewee Aleksandra Kurzak - read her brand new interview by clicking [here]
    Silvio - Alessio Arduini
    Canio's troupe - Marty Keiser, Andy Sapora, and Joshua Wynter

    -------------

    These two revivals of productions by Sir David McVicar are very nice. Cav is more concept driven. The sets for Cav are a vast space with a square elevated wooden platform surrounded by a large circle of chairs. Santuzza in her condition of a pariah and an outcast stays for significant periods outside of the circle, sitting on an isolated chair on the left side of the stage. The outer walls of this large space are illuminated by clusters of candles. It's all very tasteful - I have a predilection for minimalist sets. It is a very somber physical production, dark, with costumes in black for everybody.

    Pag is more lively. The same large square space now gets on the walls niches and nooks, taverns and side-walk tables, depicting a Calabrese plaza, and the villagers are dressed in colorful clothes. The center of the stage is occupied by the Vaudeville truck that then opens up into a stage for the play inside the opera. There doesn't seem to be a noticeable concept (like Santuzza's physical exclusion), just a very realistic set that does look and feel all the time like the real thing.

    Both sets are perfect in terms of establishing the mood for these pieces, and are quite successful in terms of efficiency, except that the first one is a bit unfocused and abstract as far as the venues for the scenes are concerned. Overall, sets get A+.

    Blocking for both pieces is astonishing, helped by the vast space and the appropriate choreography. The sense of theatricality in these productions is a gem, not to forget the beautiful lighting. A++

    Nicola Luisotti for me was better than Fabio Luisi when I saw these same productions in 2015. As I said in that review, maestro Luisi seems a bit too subdued for verismo, and does better with lighter repertory. Maestro Luisotti brought up the dynamics more energetically (sometimes a bit too much, to the detriment of the singers). Still, I can't help but compare the Intermezzo with the one conducted by Riccardo Muti, with the latter getting the upper hand. But anyway, conducting was decent. B+. The orchestra reacted well; A. The chorus was competent as usual. A+.

    Acting was very good across the board. The two leading ladies did well in their operas, with Ekaterina being a poignant Santuzza, and Aleksandra being simply phenomenal in her acting as Nedda. Aleksandra was the best thing about this evening, with a rendition that was charming, lively, sexy, joyful (she moves and dances very well on stage), tragic when needed, and fierce. Overall acting, A+, with Aleksandra achieving the maximum A++.

    Singing again was overall better than the last time I saw these two operas at the Met. The cast is very similar with several overlaps in the more secondary roles, while both main roles in both operas had different artists this time: Roberto doing Turiddu and Canio instead of Marcelo Álvarez, Ekaterina doing Santuzza instead of Eva-Maria Westbroek, and Aleksandra being our Nedda in place of Patricia Racette.

    I always liked very much Roberto's timbre of voice and his acting was more convincing than Marcelo's. He sang both roles elegantly, and like he explained to me backstage after the show (stay tuned for more details; we did a mini-interview with him backstage, which will be transcribed soon), had to pace himself because it is not easy to do this double bill.

    Ekaterina also did better than Eva-Maria, I must say, as much as I like the latter. Eva-Maria has put together some extraordinary performances at the Met over the years, but Santuzza, at least the day I attended, isn't among her best roles.

    Now, sorry, Patricia, but Aleksandra was a force of nature, and easily qualifies as the best Nedda in recent memory (an opinion that seems to be shared by the artistic crew at the Met; see a mention of this in her interview with us).

    George Ganidze did better as Tonio than as Alfio. Maybe it was an issue of warming up the voice. The Lola of Rihab Chaieb was less vivacious than Ginger Costa-Jackson's. Our Andrew, Bidlack of last name, did very well, and while I don't clearly remember the other Andrew who was Beppe in 2015, most likely Bidlack was more memorable; I thought he handled his aria quite beautifully.

    All things considered, singing gets an average of A+, with Aleksandra and Roberto pushing the average up.

    So this show gets an A+ from Opera Lively, higher than the B+ the earlier performance got from us in 2015. It doesn't achieve A++ due to less than thrilling conducting, and a couple of secondary roles that had slightly less good singing. Still, it was very good, and an improvement over the relatively lackluster predecessor cast and conductor.

    Not only A+ is already a very good score, but I'd insist that just the opportunity of witnessing Aleksandra Kurzak's Nedda makes of this show a must-see.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 27th, 2018 at 04:35 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Production Pictures for Cavalleria Rusticana, courtesy of the Met Press Department, credit Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    Semenchuk and the Cav sets

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    Alagna and Semenchuck

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    Ganidze

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    Alagna
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 25th, 2018 at 10:21 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Production Pictures for Pagliacci, Courtesy of the Met Press Department, photo credits Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    The Pagliacci sets

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    Alagna and Kurzak

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    The full cast in one of the scenes

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    Kurzak and Arduini

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    Kurzak and Ganidze

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    Alagna
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 27th, 2018 at 04:37 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    After the show Roberto Alagna granted to Opera Lively a mini-interview where he talks about both his roles:

    http://operalively.com/forums/conten...Roberto-Alagna
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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