(photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zwekter)
The conventional double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and
Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci opened the season of the Israeli Opera. Composed
at the same time and place, in the same style, for the same contest, and on the
same theme of male jealousy and murder, these two provide little variety. The
high level of the performance, though, contributed some
Cavalleria was preceded, for some strange reason, by the
overture of Pagliacci. The only plausible explanation for this absurd mix-up
that comes to mind is the wish to confuse the unsuspecting audience, faithful to
the principle of “the customer is always wrong.”
Director Giancarlo del
Monaco-Zukerman’s staging and Johannes Leiacker’s sets were transposed from the
Teatro Real Madrid. Consequently, they were already old acquaintances for
viewers of the Mezzo television channel.
’s set was agreeably
abstract, demonstrating modernism and leaving room for the audience’s
imagination. This approach could profitably have been applied also to the
killing scene, letting it occur backstage, as is being done in some European
performances, and therefore justifying the excited outcry “Turridu has been
killed!” Instead, this information was rendered superfluous by letting the
killing happen visibly, and unappetizingly, on stage.Pagliacci
’s set, on
the other hand, was more conventional and realistic, allowing the audience’s
imagination to get some well-deserved rest. The choir functioned in both operas
effectively by milling around on the stage to create liveliness and movement.
There was much throwing around of chairs and tables in Pagliacci
, for the sake
of persuasive dramatic effect.
, Tatiana Anisimova
convincingly conveyed Santuzza’s hysterical torment and love, though sometimes
too theatrically to be credible, with her expressive, warm soprano. It sometimes
became screechy, however, on the higher notes in moments of excitement. As
Turrido, Scott Piper drastically impersonated the pestered lover. His tenor
sounded routine in the Drinking Song, but warmed up to moving emotional
expression in his Farewell Aria. Paolo Gavanelli, as Alfio in Cavalleria
and Tonio in Pagliacci
, displayed a forceful, hollering baritone, as appropriate
for these disagreeable characters.
, Gustavo Porta as Canio
emerged as a tenor of stature, with his rich, flexible voice profoundly
expressing his tempestuous, tragic sentiments with fierce intensity. His aria,
“Vesti la giuba,” was one of the performance’s highlights. As Nedda, Ira
Bertman’s enchanting, bright soprano was a pure delight.
Opera Chorus played a significant part in the performance, sounding cohesive and
involved in the action.
David Stern, conducting the Symphony Orchestra
Rishon Lezion, displayed a well developed sense of musical drama, competently
creating the required atmosphere for every scene.