Sep 25, 2008

Cav/Pag, Madrid 2007

Cavalleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascagni) I Pagliacci (Ruggero Leoncavallo) Teatro Real Madrid, march 2007 DVD Opus Arte (video preview of I Pagliacci on the page)

Cavalleria Rusticana cast
Santuzza - Violeta Urmana
Turiddu - Vincenzo La Scola
Mamma Lucia - Viorica Cortez
Alfio - Marco Di Felice
Lola - Dragana Jugovic  

I Pagliacci cast
Canio - Vladimir Galouzine
Nedda - María Bayo
Tonio - Carlo Guelfi
Beppe - Antonio Gandía
Silvio - Ángel Ódena

Conductor - Jesús López Cobos
Director - Giancarlo del Monaco

This production begins with a brilliant idea that bends Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci in a unique and very coherent way. Since nowadays those two one-act operas are almost always performed together, director Giancarlo Del Monaco decided to include Cavalleria in I Pagliacci.
After all, Leoncavallo's piece is based on theater inside the theater, "mise an abyme" as we say in French [1] - with the characters oscillating between their real life and their performances in the circus and interactions with the crowd. After Pagliacci's prelude, Tonio enters the auditorium from the rear and makes his way onto the stage while singing "Si può? si può?". After his aria, the curtain opens on the sets of Cavalleria Rusticana, and the Mascagni's piece is fully performed, before I Pagliacci resumes.

The setting of Cavalleria is very well though off - and pictures adequately the XIXth century Sicilian atmosphere of the piece: bright white light, marble blocks (similar to those one can see in the region), sloping ground, all-black costumes, the way of the Cross, Catholic flagellants...

The musical aspect on the other hand is definitely not so successful. Vincenzo Scola has disastrous high notes that reminded me of Franco Farina (not the kind of reminiscence you want to have), and his big aria, "Vino generoso" was beyond mediocrity. The chorus is equally bad - lack of Italian diction, of fluidity and unison ("Regina coeli laetare" and "a casa amici" being the worst parts) and the musical execution is not much better either (the flutes are horrendous in Alfio's "Ad essi non perdomo" and "Viva il vino spumeggiante"). The conduction of Jesus Lopez Cobos is first-grade textbook: uninspired, laboured, with no sense of the rhythm of the score (too fast in "Regina coeli laetare", passionless in the intermezzo, too slow in numerous other times).

Violetta Urmana is kind of worthy of applause. Her stage presence is interesting and her portrayal of Santuzza is believable ("voi lo sapete" is superb and her "Bada!" is very convincing). Her low register is beautiful - but she can't be heard over the chorus. Marco Di Felice's Alfio is clearly one of the best I've seen in recent years; Viorica Cortez's Mamma Lucia on the other hand is hammered by an irritating vibrato that just won't stop.

As for I Pagliacci, Carlo Guelfi is a fine Tonio, but the rest of the cast is not up for the task (especially Vladimir Galouzine as Canio). And the conduction of Cobos once again fails to fully feature the score of Leoncavallo. The sets are pretty ugly and lack colors, light and life, basically.


All in all, I must say this DVD is not really worth buying - unless you are really fond of Cavalleria Rusticana, like myself.

[1] If some knows how to translate this literary term in English, please share - I'm all for expending my vocabulary.


Anonymous said...

I am catching up with my blogreading...:-)

The English expression is 'The play within the/a play'

Extatic said...

I would have hoped for a more subtle way of saying it...

But thanks !

Anonymous said...

Comme souvent en anglais il suffit de conserver l'expression française "Mise en abyme"