Music: Pietro Mascagni/Ruggero Leoncavallo (libretto and music)

Libretto: Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti and Guido Menasci after the play by Giovanni Verga

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House in 2015

Director: Damiano Michieletto

Designers: Paolo Fantin and Carla Teti

Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus led by Antonio Pappano

Turiddu, Canio: Aleksandrs Antonenko 

Santuzza: Eva-Maria Westbroek 

Nedda: Carmen Giannattasio

Alfio/Tonio: Dimitri Platanias                      

Mamma Lucia: Elena Zilio 

Lola: Martina Belli

Silvio: Dyonisios Sourbis

The Royal Opera production of a double bill of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA AND PAGLIACCI is a mix of the excellent, the adequate and the under par. There is, to begin with, the presence of the Greek baritone Dmitri Platanias in the dual assignment of Alfio and Tonio. In both of which he excels vocally and dramatically, nailing the Pagliacci prologue and the duet with Santuzza in Cavalleria. Then there is the excellent Nedda of Carmen Giannattasio, pleasing to the eye, vocally top notch in the scenes with Tonio and Silvio (the very good baritone Dyonisios Sourbis) and superb in her aria.

The Turiddu and Canio of Aleksandrs Antonenko are adequate at best. A big voiced, big fellow he tends to manhandle his sopranos and bully any and all men who oppose him. But that is only part of the characters he is playing. Turiddu is supposedly popular with his fellow Sicilians, presumably a good son. As for Canio, all we get from Antonenko is a brute who pushes everybody around, along with pushing his voice to its limits.

In the supporting roles of Lola and Mamma Lucia, Martina Belli and the always solid Elena Zilio deliver one hundred percent.

Eva-Maria Westbroek is not the ideal Santuzza. A reliable singer who excels in a specialized repertory of Wagner, Poulenc and Janáček, she looks and sounds ill at ease in the quintessentially Italian role of the jilted Sicilian woman.

Designers: Paolo Fantin and Carla Teti and stage director Damiano Michieletto opted for a bleak, sunless, at times claustrophobic look, relentlessly colorless in both the modern dress and in a set that often felt crowded in the choral scenes and unserviceable throughout, with a bakery in Cavalleria remaining the one and only location throughout the opera and a double-take sequence in Pagliacci with the play within the play taking place simultaneously with a backstage drama, both in a church hall, not in an outdoor stage wagon – all of it making absolutely no sense.

On the plus side there is the wonderful conducting of Antonio Pappano, who time and again throughout this Royal Opera series proves to be one of today’s finest opera conductors.

This DVD is part of the Royal Opera Collection (  OA1337BD / OABD7291BD).    

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS