Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House
These two operas, Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Rugerro Leoncavallo, both had their world premieres in the last decade of the 19th century and in fact were first staged as a double bill at the Metropolitan Opera New York in December 1893. They have both been hugely successful as a duet and indeed the original Director of this revival, Damiano Michieletto, has brought a common theme to the two operas, relocating them both to a small town in Southern Italy, with a bakery for the Cav and a community hall for the Pag.
Overall the production worked well, although the large central rotating bakery set in Cav detracted from some of the choral scenes, which had to find their way around the set from one side of the stage to the other. However, it was an interesting interpretation of these two operas brought together by a common production.
Musically it was a tremendously exciting evening. Daniel Oren, the Conductor, is rarely given enough praise for the interpretation of the works he conducts. However, here his care of the orchestra, singers and music enabled the audience to enjoy an electric performance very much centred around the principles.
In both operas Bryan Hymel was the tenor singing Turiddu in Cav and Canio in Pag. He sang with great intensity and virality of tone, with a wonderful middle to his voice and although slightly thin on top, his voice in the upper register had a ringing quality. His girlfriend, Santuzza, in Cav was the incredible Latvian mezzo soprano, Elina Garanca. As a mezzo singing a soprano role, she does not quite hit us between the eyes at the top of her voice, but the writing for her role is not high and we are blessed with her distinctively dark sultry regal voice, boasting more than sufficient power and warmth for her role.
Elena Zilio returned outstandingly for the Mumma Lucia, who appeared on stage for most of the performance. The Alfio of Mark Doss and Lola of Martina Belli were well sung.
In Pag Bryan Hymel sang with Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda his wife. She has a large fresh interesting voice with the ability to float notes in those quieter passages that require real emotion.
The Tonio was sung by the English baritone, Simon Keenlyside, who shone in his prologue ‘Si puo’ and throughout his performance. Interestingly, he did not give us the final celebrated line ‘la commedia e finite – the comedy is finished’. Although in the original manuscript Tonio is given this line, the appropriation of this final line by Canio dates back to 1895 and this is usual nowadays.
Great music, great night.