Cavalleria Rusticana

SF Opera's Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci

37A7113* Notes *
The standard double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci opened the latest season at San Francisco Opera last night with a colorful production (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) from tenor turned director José Cura.

With the departure of Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera is looking for a new music director and Maestro Daniele Callegari is the first of many conductors making a debut at San Francisco Opera this season. The orchestra sounded transparent, particularly the harp and strings.

Because of the orchestra, the Intermezzo in Cavalleria Rusticana was the best moment of that opera, despite the surreal dance choreography at odds with the realistic production. Likewise, the chorus did a great job throughout the two operas, singing with cohesion and gamely depicting the busy neighborhood denizens.

The leading ladies are powerful here and both sang with much emotion. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk's Santuzza has much pathos, even when she used a shrill edge, it was not inappropriate to her role. Soprano Lianna Haroutounian is secure and lovely, she makes a pretty little Nedda and the violence against her was especially pronounced because of her small stature. Her singing with David Pershall as lover Silvio was beautiful.

The men were more of a mixed bag. The off stage singing of tenor Roberto Aronica (Turiddu) was warbly but his drinking song ”Viva, il vino spumeggiante" was strong. Baritone Dimitri Platanias was serviceable as Alfio in Cav and more gripping in Pag both in the Prologue as Leoncavallo and Tonio, the buffoon who tries to force himself on Nedda. Most compelling was tenor Marco Berti as the betrayed Canio, his anger is palpable. “Vesti la giubba” was a high point of the performance. 

José Cura's production, directed here by Jose Maria Condemi, is at once static, just the one street scene in Buenos Aires in the Italian neighborhood La Boca, and fiddly, with people constantly walking through, peering out their windows and the like. The idea has its appeal, why not have these two operas, so often done together, inhabit the same world? In practice, it was forced, and confusing unless one consulted the program as characters from Cavalleria Rusticana showed up in Pagliacci. I ended up feeling very sorry for Mamma Lucia (played by mezzo-soprano Jill Grove) who mourns for not only her son Turiddu but for Silvio as well, since he is a waiter at her tavern.

* Tattling *
Standing room was not competitive at all this year, I arrived at the opera house at 9:52am and got tickets 8 and 9. The opening night crowd was raucous, applauding and cheering Nancy Pelosi, who was in attendance.

There was the usual talking and inattention, particularly after the intermission as many people did not make it back to their seats in time and were stuck at the back of the orchestra level. Someone in this area talked loudly on his cell phone during Pagliacci. I also heard someone's device ring with the sound of crickets during a quiet part of this opera, which seemed terribly inappropriate.

Cav/Pag at Opernhaus Zürich

Opernhaus-zuerich * Notes * 
Opernhaus Zürich held a performance of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci Wednesday night. Grischa Asagaroff's production was straightforward, the set simple, the costumes very cute. The orchestra sounded lovely under Stefano Ranzani, fluid and clear.

Cavalleria rusticana featured Beatrice Uria-Monzon (Santuzza) and José Cura (Turiddu). Uria-Monzon embodied her role, the anguish in her voice was palpable. Cura sang with strength, his reedy voice was easy on the ear. The rest of the cast supported them well. Cheyne Davidson did have some timing problems as Alfio, particularly in his first vocal entrance. Katharina Peetz was alluring as Lola and Cornelia Kallisch maternal as Mama Lucia. The latter had a poignant scene with Cura near the end of the opera.

The female lead of Pagliacci, Fiorenza Cedolins, was less exciting. Her singing was not bad, perhaps it is simply more difficult to sympathize with the character of Nedda. Cura sang Canio compellingly, his voice sounded secure, his high notes without strain or compression. Carlo Guelfi was persuasive in the Prologue and threatening as Tonio. The supporting cast here was likewise fine, including Boiko Zvetanov (Peppe) and Gabriel Bermudez (Silvio). The orchestra continued to play with spirit, and cello soli were particularly beautiful.

* Tattling * 
There was much whispering in the boxes. A man tapping out the rhythm during Pagliacci, but he was silenced with a stern glance. The maestro tried to stop the ovation after Cavalleria rusticana's intermezzo by dismissively waving his hands.

ENO's 2008-2009 Season

September 20- October 28 2008: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci
September 22- October 10 2008: The Barber of Seville
October 10- November 12 2008: Partenope
October 22- November 22 2008: Aida
November 10- December 1 2008: Boris Godunov
November 27-30 2008: Riders to the Sea
June 12- July 10 2009: Madam Butterfly

Rosemary Joshua sings the title role of Partenope at English National Opera next season.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Houston Grand Opera's 2008-2009 Season

October 17- November 1 2008: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci
October 30- November 14 2008:
Beatrice and Benedict
January 23- February 6 2009: A Midsummer Night's Dream
January 30- February 6 2009: Chorus!
April 17- May 2 2009: Rigoletto
May 1-9 2009: Brief Encounter

Next season, Elizabeth Futral and Nathan Gunn sing in the world premiere of André Previn's Brief Encounter. Dolora Zajick sings Santuzza in Cavalleria and Brandon Jovanovich has his HGO debut as Turiddu. The lineup is oddly devoid of Puccini, and is quite complementary to Dallas Opera's season.

Press Release [PDF] | Official Site

Lyric Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 27- October 31 2008: Manon
October 6- November 4 2008: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
November 7-30 2008: Lulu
November 18- December 19 2008: Porgy and Bess
December 13 2008- January 29 2009: Madama Butterfly
January 19- February 28 2009: Tristan und Isolde
February 14- March 27 2009: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci
March 2-28 2009: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Lyric Opera of Chicago announced their 2008-2009 season this morning. Natalie Dessay will be singing Manon, Nathan Gunn will be Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, William Burden is Alwa in Lulu, Patricia Racette sings Butterfly, and Dolora Zajick stars in Cavalleria. The Tristan und Isolde production is the Hockney one from Los Angeles, which is being performed this season, and was at San Francisco last season. Deborah Voigt will be singing Isolde with Clifton Forbis as Tristan. Juha Uusitalo is having his Lyric Opera debut as Kurwenal. Francesca Zambello's production Porgy and Bess from Washington National Opera is also coming to San Francisco, and was performed in Los Angeles last year.

Press Release [PDF] | Lyric Opera Site