4 things you need to know about Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci operas
New year, new program and this one by Opera Australia is a stellar line-up.
More notably and as the first cab-off-the-rank for the program, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni is on, alongside its often-accompanied Pagliacci (the two are often performed side-by-side as they share such strong similarities and complementary storylines).
There are four vital things you’ve got to know about the performances before they take to the world-renowned Sydney Opera House stage…
A match made in heaven
Cavalleria Rusticana won the 1889 Sonzogno Competition, and soon achieved worldwide acclaim. The success of Pagliacci’s premiere in 1892 almost equalled that of Cavalleria Rusticana. They are the first and only operas by both Mascagni and Leoncavallo to have gained a lasting place in the repertory. This production is co-produced with Opera Australia, Royal Opera House, Götebord Opera Sweden and La Monnaie Brussels.
In Cavalleria Rusticana, Turiddu has seduced Santuzza, but abandoned her to return to his former (now married) girlfriend. Will Santuzza get revenge? Meanwhile in Pagliacci, the actor Canio finds his wife Nedda is unfaithful – just as they are about to enact a comic play about a cuckolded husband. What happens next?
Verismo’s greatest success
Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci are fantastic examples of the verismo movement that influenced Italian opera between 1890 to 1920. Verismo is characterised by depictions of everyday life, usually focussing on poor and working-class characters. Cavalleria Rusticana was based on a story and play by the Sicilian realist writer Giovanni Verga, while Leoncavallo claimed that Pagliacci was inspired by a true story.
Director Damiano Michieletto’s production links Mascagni and Leoncavallo’s operas by having them set in the same poverty-stricken village in 1980s Italy. While the younger characters struggle to escape their dreary routine lives — often with tragic results — the older ones are resigned to their harsh fates and seek consolation in religion.
Listen to the sweeping aria from Pagliacci here…
Opera Australia’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci is playing at the Sydney Opera House January 12 – February 4. See more here.
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