I Pagliacci

July 9, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 0 Comments |

and Cavalleria Rusticana

(Filmed at the Met, Northern winter, 2015) (screened in Adelaide, 8 July 2015)

It’s more (squalid, proletarian) potboiler than verismo, but this time-honoured double bill of adulterous, hypocritical, homicidal southern Italians is, pardon the expression, impervious to the knife.  The Met, under baton of Fabio Luisi, is faultless, and the direction and cinéma vérité staging, after Sir David McVicar, is pretty good, albeit a little clunky (*QUIBBLE ALERT*).  Appropriately, ’twas the Met that first combined these two hardy perennials in 1893; a good idea that seems obvious in hindsight.

The pieces are worthy but slight, crisp wafers soaked in goose fat.  The entr’acte to Pagliacci is better than the overture…the wooden platform used in Cav. is a bit smaller than centre court at Wimbledon but larger than a squash court at the Whitbury Leisure Centre, and it serves as a stage for solemn, pious, lip-smacking, misogynistic betrayal, sexual assault and casual slaughter, the kind of repulsive and boorish behaviour that has honoured the South since the Sicilian Vespers in 1282.  But that’s another story (as Verdi might say) and anyway, don’t we just love it?  Pag and Cav are great soaps with gorgeous music and denouements of high melodrama.  And we can settle back and appease our lusts by admiring Lola’s and Nedda’s busto provocante ahead of all the blood and gutsA terrific cast, who rise above some juvenile set pieces, round out a can’t-miss double-header.

Great direction for stage and film – the Met is ahead of everyone in its recordings of productions, thanks to superb technical and artistic skill, supported by the Neubauer Family Foundation – TVC has no idea who that is but the Foundation is disbursing some dough to good purpose.

*Quibbles: 1. I Pagliacci takes place in Calabria in the summer of 1870, not in Sicily in 1949. 2. The travelling troupe is borne in a donkey-cart, not a truck out of Wages of Fear crossed with a long trailer, messy enough to make Lucy and Ricky ashamed. 3. In the distance, beyond the truck, is a bar with fairy lights full of ‘types’ in singlets…a scene that constitutes a kind of bastard marriage between a De Sica and a Rossellini film.  (These are merely quibbles).


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