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Posts Tagged ‘Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci’

In Gilbert Deflo’s new production of the Cav&Pag combo for the New National Theatre, one single set has been chosen: the ruins of a Roman theatre. While this goes immediately well with for the comedy troupe in I Pagliacci, it gives some sort of unexpected tragic dignity for Cavalleria’s small-village drama. As usual with single sets (especially here, when two unrelated plots are involved), lots of awkward solutions had to be found. In Cavalleria, this involves the procession to the church having to make some funny manoeuvres in the middle of nowhere; in Pagliacci, Canio would really need to be deaf and blind not to notice Nedda and Silvio making out two meters from his window. In any case, Cavalleria needed a little bit more skill in what regards direction. Santuzza has been excommunicated and this means that she could not take a prominent part during Easter celebrations, but here she is placed on stage as if she were some sort of priestess around whom the whole event turns around. If this is some sort of dramatic point, it is a poorly developed one. Pagliacci fares noticeably better – the plot offers more material to the director and the props and costumes add some sort of naif charm to the scenery. I only wished that a more climactic solution had been found for the closing line. Here it just seemed as if someone was counting to 15 to say that the play was over. I did not see the previous production – and I can bet this it was something very similar to this one. Although I now more or less see that the Japanese audiences like to watch opera from the safe distance provided by the “exotic and picturesque”, I will probably never understand why they prefer not to appropriate something that has to do with them, because it has to do with everybody. This is a country where people are still sentenced to death by crimes committed in circumstances very similar to those of Canio and Alfio.

I’ve had to read the program to really believe that this orchestra is the same one that played in Friday’s Arabella. These scores are no Richard Strauss, for sure, but it is amazing anyway that they were able to sound three times louder accompanying Santuzza and Nedda than taking pride of place right beside Arabella and Zdenka. Conductor Renato Palumbo did a very good job in engaging his musicians, even if he tended to drain the music of some guts in an approach that could be described as “let’s pretend it’s Mahler”. I had seen Lucrecia Garcia (Santuzza) only once, as Don Carlo’s Elisabetta and I would say that crime-and-jealousy ignites her more than palatial intrigue. Although her acting abilities are scarce, one could see that she established some sort of connection with the dramatic situations in a way I did not see in Berlin. Her singing too sounded more expressive – she meant her lines, played her registers adeptly to utter some key words (her curse was particularly believable) and presided over the orchestral sound with ease. It is an irresistible voice, but there were clumsy moments and she unnecessarily forces some notes as if she was trying to shift from lirico spinto into dramatic soprano out of will power. Rachele Stanisci (Nedda), on the other hand, is supposed to be some sort of singing actress. As some lyric sopranos before her, at some point she must have had a sound voice, for one can still hear that she manages trills or mezza voce, but most of what you hear is  matte tonal quality, a harsh middle register, nonexisting low notes and piercing acuti (or a flat version of them). But she is a good actress and has a good figure for the role. Walter Fraccaro is not musical refinement’s best friend and Turiddù’s siciliana (on stage) seemed as if he were very angry with Lola (very well cast with the lovely-toned Mutsumi Taniguchi), but then he is going to be angry with Santuzza and you adjusts to his invariably vehement style. The sheer volume and natural feeling for the text in his native language are, of course, most welcome. As Canio, Argentinian tenor Gustavo Porta offered a rather glaring, not truly appealing tonal quality and some squeezing into top notes, but he has impressively long breath. One could see he is fully committed, but the lack of variety made it all seem just consistently loud. While Hiroyuki Narita was overparted as Alfio, Vittorio Vitelli offered a rich-toned, Renato Bruson-like baritone in a powerful account of the Prologue from I Pagliacci, with exciting high notes and expert tonal shading. That alone was worth the ticket price.

 

 

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