Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci at the Geneva Opera House
First staged as a double bill in New York in 1893, these two operas have been part of the standard opera repertoire as a duet ever since. Geneva Opera provides us with two very contrasting productions, which made for a varied but interesting musical evening.
The outstanding Royal Opera House production by Damiano Michieletto brought a common theme across the two operas. This is certainly not the case here with the Italian film & opera Director and actress, Emma Dante, directing a bland square set where props were rolled on and off at regular intervals. The props were mainly staircases, a balcony and door, and Jesus style crosses, one of which was constantly being dragged across the stage. It was all very ‘High Church’ and the production was only saved by the glory of the music and some really good singing.
The Belarusian mezzo soprano, Oksana Volkova, sang the lead role of Santuzza. She has a rounded voice, which was not particularly attractive and somewhat lacked personality. However, her voice filled the thousand seater purpose built temporary auditorium, without making one feel that she had gripped the sensitivity of her role.
The Italian tenor, Marcello Giordani, sung a substantial interpretation of her lover Turiddu. He still delivers an exciting Verona style tenor sound, even in a small house, although perhaps now at the expense of his middle register, which is becoming slightly worn. The young Russian bass baritone, Roman Burdenko, delivered authentic bel canto vigour to the role of Alfio with Stefania Toczyska as a vocally great Mamma Lucia and Melody Louledjian as a light soprano Lola.
The Pagliacci, however, was a vastly different affair. Another Italian Director, Serena Sinigaglia, was the Director of an interesting production. It opened with a stage being built in fields and gardens and there was a largess of fun and comedy, certainly at the beginning within the direction of this work.
Tonio’s prologue was sung by the baritone, Roman Burdenko, who was the only singer to take a role in both operas. He was outstanding in his role and in his moody presentation. The Pagliacci was the tenor voice of the Mexican, Diego Torre, who gave us a rather static version of his role, but with a full if somewhat nasally tenor sound. His Nedda was the Georgian soprano, Nino Machaidze, who had a pretty voice with some substance and Markus Werba gave us an anguished performance as Silvio until Pagliacci’s knife across his throat did for him – p.s. where was the blood!?
The whole evening was controlled by the outstanding British Conductor, Alexander Joel, who enabled the audience to enjoy a sizzling performance of great colour and appropriate tonal variants throughout the evening. He not only controlled the singers well, but worked well with his outstanding chorus, who were on great form.