Aug 8, 2009

Pagliacci, Orange

I Pagliacci
Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Dramma in due atti (1892)
Libretto Ruggiero Leoncavallo

Nedda - Inva Mula
Canio - Roberto Alagna
Tonio - Seng-Hyou Ko
Silvio - Stéphane Degout
Beppe - Florian Laconi
Orchestre National de France
Choeurs des opéras de région
Georges Prêtre, direction
Mise en scène, Jean-Claude Auvray

France 3 live broadcast of the Aug.4 performance
Chorégies d'Orange


If I had the opportunity to choose an opera to stage, I would choose Pagliacci.
First of all, for very personal reasons, I love "le Théâtre dans le Théâtre" or, in this case, "le cirque dans l'opéra". It automatically carries, for me, a deep sense of Absurd that is longing to be explored. Yet I haven't seen any production of Pagliacci that focuses on this aspect. This one included.

Can you imagine what a director familiar with Harold Pinter's work would do with such a piece? Clearly Jean-Claude Auvray never heard of Pinter.

His one big idea, changing the end of the opera by having Canio kill himself is the ultimate misreading of the libretto. This is not an opera about death, although Nedda and Silvio actually die, this is about life. Canio's life. And his rebirth, after killing his unfaithful wife and her lover.

There is so much to explore in this piece without altering its meaning, and yet Auvray chose the easy path - making it more dramatic (or totally idiotic) by having Canio commit suicide. Les mots me manquent. How did he dare? It is so hard to really read the libretto, written by Leoncavallo himself, and try to play with lines such as Canio's "Il teatro e la vita, Non son la stessa cosa." ?

The conduction of Georges Prêtre was fortunately on a whole different level. There was a very cinematographic feel to it and it blended the music perfectly with Orange's Théâtre Antique.
At one point during the love scene between Nedda and Silvio, with the wind blowing in Inva Mula's hair, I felt like I was watching a movie from the sixties (which only shows how different a live performance and a broadcast really are, regardless of the size of the TV screen).

In any case, Prêtre's conduction was fresh and truly vibrant. The contrast between his music and the physical appearance of this now very old man is really mind-blowing.

As for the cast, Inva Mula gave a forgettable performance - not bad, but not particularly exciting as well. Roberto Alagna was not very convincing either, but substituting singing with shouting hardly ever is. And his "Recitar... vesti la giubba", the highlight of the score for me, fell terribly short I'm afraid.

Song Hyon Ko was the best of the cast. His singing was full of colours and nuances, the voice was well-placed, and the acting was convincing enough. A really interesting portrayal of Tonio by Ko.

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