Reviewed by Nigel Chester
Opera North presented a production of the established pairing of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana as part of their Little Greats festival of short operas, and so, as the orchestra went through their pre-curtain exercises, the lights dimmed and the audience settled in for an evening of jealousy, revenge and murder.
Pagliacci opens with Tonio explaining in the prologue, that we are to see “a slice of life”, the rehearsal of an opera, and the curtain rises to see the stage set as the rehearsal studio of a contemporary theatre, an opera within an opera, a stage upon a stage. Cleverly, design drawings and photos of the other operas in the series surround the studio walls.
The company arrive for rehearsal and amid a melee of greetings and introductions, rumours abound that Nedda, the wife of the insanely jealous director, Canio, is having an affair – she is, with Silvio.
As rehearsals continue, lines between art and life become difficult to distinguish, until during the performance of the play, Canio, having been informed of Nedda’s infidelity, demands to know the identity of her lover, her refusal further enrages Canio, who kills both Nedda and Silvio as he steps forward to defend her.
The stand-out performance was Elin Pritchard’s Nedda, whose superb voice and stage presence encompassed the cruelty and deceit shown to her husband.
The prologue was sung in English, with the remainder of the performance being in Italian, with subtitles provided via large screens on both sides of the stage, the text was large and easy enough to read.
Following a relaxed interval, the evening continued with Cavalleria Rusticana. The scene set to depict the village square, shop and church, a dominant feature.
Turrido – Jonathan Stoughton, the son of local shopkeeper Lucia, loves Lola, unfortunately for him, she is now married to taxi driver Alfio. Angry at this, Turrido seduces the deeply religious Santuzza.
Lola, unhappy in marriage, begins an affair with Turrido, on learning of this, Santuzza seeks help from Lucia without success and on seeing Alfio, informs him of his wife’s affair. Alfio vows to seek vendetta (revenge) on Turrido.
As the scene changes, the orchestra, under renowned conductor, Tobias Ringborg, play the now famous Intermezzo.
The villagers leave church after mass to find Turrido happy, as he is with Lola, he challenges Alfio who refuses to drink with him. Recognising the pain he has caused to all concerned, Turrido begs forgiveness, accepts his fate and dies at the hand of Alfio.
As Santuzza, Giselle Allen develops her character from grey and mouse-like to powerful and dominant as her anger increases. Lucia – Rosalind Plowright, brooding and scornful, ever present.
A truly professional performance of both operas, by guest artists, chorus and orchestra of Opera North, the music soared and the acting was fast paced.
Opera North’s The Little Greats at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 1-4 November 2017, for more inforamtion or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND | 0115 989 5555