Opera’s Popular Double Bill, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci ,
Will Be Telecast on PBS Great Performances September 6
By: Ellis Nassour
Sunday of Labor Day weekend will be an opera lover’s dream as
THIRTEEN’S Great Performances at the Met telecasts two tales of passion, jealousy, and death in the double bill that’s been inseparable on world opera stages: Pietro Mascagni’s one act Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Calvary) and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Clowns), two acts and prologue — on September 6 at 12:30 P.M. This is first new Met production of Cav/Pag in 45 years. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham hosts.
Argentina’s international, award-laden superstar tenor Marcelo Álvarez is certainly used to challenges. Since his Met debut in 2000 as the Italian Singer in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and more recently in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera and Il Trovatore, both opposite golden-voiced Sondra Radvanovsky, and Puccini’s Tosca, opposite Karita Mattila, he’s become an audience favorite.
Doing formidable double-duty, he rose to great acclaim "giving an impassioned performance" in Cav/Pag, directed by Sir David McVicar, who gave ample evidence "their explicit, hair-trigger emotionalism, still has the power to shock."
The double bill is a feast for the eyes and ears. Sir David segued through time and chose to set Cav in a 1900s Sicilian village and Pag, with its colorful vaudeville troupe trappings, in a grubby 40s truck stop.
The company was under the baton of principal conductor Fabio Luisi. The production – a spare Cav, the rich Pag – has costumes by Moritz Junge and set design by Rae Smith.
The former has a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play and short story by Giovanni Verga. It had an unusual route to the stage: winning a one-act opera contest. Pag is the only Leoncavallo opera that’s widely staged. Its Canio became one of Caruso’s signature roles.
In Cav, Álvarez’s impetuous peasant Turiddu, who returns from military service to find he’s been jilted by his fiancé, becomes entangled in a love quadrangle. Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek is Santuzza, whom he seduces and then abandons for his former love. However, it turns out Santuzza has wiles of her own.
In Pag, opposite the tenor’s Canio the clown, soprano Patricia Racette stars as his ill-fated wife Nedda.
Álvarez is not alone in doing double-duty in the double bill. Sensational baritone George Gagnidze sings of Alfio in Cav and Tonio in Pag.
Cav is famed for its poignant Intermezzo, Turiddu’s "The Sicilian," Santuzza’s
"Voi lo sapete," the town folks’ Easter hymn "Regina Coeli," and Turiddu’s breathtaking finale "Mamma! Un altro bacio! Addio" (Mamma! One more kiss… Addio)."
Pag‘s spectacular moment is as Canio applies greasepaint to go onstage, where he’s told he’ll discover his wife’s lover, and sings "Vesti la glubba (Put on the Costume)."
Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Agnes Varis Trust, and public TV viewers like you.
Gary Halvorson directs the telecast, with multiple Grammy winner [for opera and theater] Jay David Saks as music producer. The Met’s Peter Gelb is exec producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, with David Horn as exec producer.