Monday, April 15, 2013

Cav & Pag – Together Again for the First Time (Opéra Royal de Wallonie)

Marie Kalinine and José Cura
José Cura directs and stars in this traditional double bill, and he adds a few twists. Both operas take place in the same village, with the action of Pagliacci immediately following Cavalliera Rusticana. Most of each cast appear in both operas. The waiter in Mama Lucia’s café, whom she treats as a son, turns out to be Silvio. Oh, and both composers appear in the performance.

Mascagni is a silent observer throughout Cav, and he is soon joined by Leoncavallo, who sings the Pag prologue (instead of Tonioa good thing in this case). Cura reassigns a few other lines too. The chorus does not reappear at the end of Cav, and we are spared the final choral "Ah!!" which is sometimes more awkward than effective. Lucia and Silvio hear from offstage that Turridu is dead, and call to Santuzza, who rushes out to the square. The lights dim on these three as they console one another and Lola stands on the balcony. By the end of the evening she's  lost two sons, so Mama Lucia gets the last word in Pag: "La Commedia è finita!" This makes more sense than it sounds, especially once we see her interactions with Turridu, Silvio, and Canio. 

José Cura and Sofia Soloviy
The interweaving of the two stories is clever. I have to admit I’ve never been a Pag fan, but Cav drew me in, and I just had to stay with these folks once I got to know them. Turridu’s casket is carried from the church during the prelude of Pag. Alfio and Lola, estranged after Turridu’s death in Cav, observe the commedia dell’arte players from their second story apartment; their marriage mirrors the Nedda and Canio's jealous/abusive relationship. They later attempt to enter the café, only to have the door slammed in their faces. Alfio seems to know Canio, but not as someone he's met before—it’s more of an empathy thing; he recognizes a fellow cuckold. (Santuzza even uses the horns gesture in Cav when telling Alfio about Lola’s affair with Turridu.)

In another touch, Canio is traditionally alone for Vesti la jubba, but here, the leading members of his troupe witness his breakdown, and Mama Lucia is there, too. She comes to the table to console him with a glass of wine. They seem to bond and her presence calms him.

I was cautious in approaching a tenor-directed performance of anything after seeing bits of Villazon’s L’Elisir (He mugs a lot, as expected. More about that in another post) but I’m impressed with this production. My fears were unfounded. The action and sets (also designed by Renaissance man Cura) are realistic (in a stagey sort of way) and engaging.  And the Divo never calls attention to himself at the expense of the drama or of the other actors.

Cura’s leading ladies at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie are wonderful: mezzo-soprano Marie Kalinine is a full-voiced, desperate-sounding but not shrewish, convincingly young, and sympathetic (and visibly pregnant*) Santuzza. Sofia Soloviy is charming Nedda, with whom anyone could fall in love. Enrico Casari as Beppo and Mady Urbain as Mama Lucia are impressive in their supporting roles, while the baritones are less successful vocally, but effective dramatically. Paolo Arrivabeni conducts the chorus and orchestra.

By interweaving and drawing parallels between the two stories, this production makes the pairing of these two operas much more than simple tradition or convenience. Recorded in November 2012, the video will be available for about two months at Arte.TV.

Cavalleria rusticana 
Turiddu: José Cura
Santuzza: Marie Kalinine
Alfio: Elia Fabbian
Lola: Alexise Yerna
Mamma Lucia: Mady Urbain
Mascagni: Christian Waldner

Nedda/Colombina: Sofia Soloviy
Canio/Pagliaccio: José Cura
Leoncavallo: Philippe Rouillon
Tonio/Taddeo: Marco Danieli
Beppe/Arlecchino: Enrico Casari
Silvio: Gabriele Nani

Chorus and Orchestra of the Opéra Royal de Wallonie

Paolo Arrivabeni, conductor

* Ms. Kalinine may or may not actually be pregnant, but Santuzza definitely is pregnant, making it clear in what way she's been "dishonored" by Turridu.

P.S. These two operas (Cav and Pag) have some really gorgeous melodies I'd forgotten about. No wonder they're so popular!


  1. No, I was not pregnant... Only Santuzza was :-)
    Thank you for this nice review.

    1. Hi Marie,

      Thanks for confirming your non-pregnancy. :-) If I had looked at YOUR blog first, I would have know for sure. I like your drawings, too.

      I commented on it because in a recent Don Giovanni, Donna Anna was pregnant - an interesting plot element - but it turned out the soprano was pregnant, but not the character.

      Thanks for reading my blog and best wishes on your upcoming Offenbach and Berlioz performances.



Comments are very welcome! They won't be moderated; but rude, abusive, and/or radically off-topic posts will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...