Cavalleria Rusticana ('Rustic Chivalry') by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci (Clowns) by Ruggero Leoncavallo were not designed to be staged together, but Mascagni had a huge influence on his younger countryman, and the two operas complement each other perfectly.
In Cavalleria Rusticana it is Easter day, but the celebrations are shattered by the farm hand Alfio, who has discovered that his wife Santuzza has been unfaithful with the dashing Turiddu. Turiddu's mother tries to intervene as the men confront each other, and the feast day ends in tragedy. 'The Easter Hymn' sung by the chorus is a highlight of the opera.
The American tenor Bryan Hymel, who also plays Henri in Les Vêpres Siciliennes this season, sings Turiddu, with the Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanča (Dec) and the Italian Anna Pirozzi (Jan) as Santuzza.
American tenor Bryan Hymel sings the jealous Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana. Photo: Dario Acosta
Back in the same village for Pagliacci, a troupe of travelling players arrive to perform The Clown and Columbine, but just as in the play, the woman is unfaithful. Italian soprano Carmen Giannatttasio sings the Nedda, with the British baritone Simon Keenlyside as her lover Tonio (Dec, then the Italian Roberto Frontali), and Italian tenor Fabio Sartori making his ROH debut as her jealous husband, Canio. When life and art overlap, it cannot end well.
When it was composed in 1890, Cavalleria Rusticana won an important competition for the then unknown Mascagni. It has been in the repertoire ever since. Leoncavallo, in search of the same degree of success, set about Pagliacci almost immediately, and it was premiered in Milan in 1892.
'Cav and Pag' are an essential item in the opera-lover's collection, and this vivid, heat-filled production will fit the bill very nicely at the turn of the year.
|What||Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci, Royal Opera House|
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
02 Dec 17 – 13 Jan 18, 10 performances, including three 12PM matinees
|Price||£6 - £195|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|