Simple folk

The Israeli Opera opens its new season with two well-known pieces that depict the lives of ordinary people.

Israeli Opera 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli Opera 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israeli Opera Tel Aviv-Yaffo opens its 27th season with a new production of a verismo double bill – Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.
Speaking on the phone from Spain, international director Giancarlo del Monaco-Zukerman, who created this production, says that he loves “all genres of Italian opera, be it Baroque, Romantic, Verdian; but in theater terms, verismo is different. Before, they used to tell stories about noble people, about barons falling in love with countesses, while verismo operas are dedicated to lives of little people, and I find it interesting, especially when we speak about these two little masterpieces.”
The Italian-born Del Monaco- Zukerman made his directorial debut in 1964 in Siracusa (Italy) with Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saens. Since then, he has been directing opera productions in the world’s most prestigious opera houses. In Israel he directed Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Giordano’s Andrea Chenier and Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and Il Trittico.
Despite the fact that many opera directors, including Del Monaco- Zukerman himself, feel free to move the opera stories to totally different epochs, the director defines his current production as “the most respectful.” The only liberty he allows himself this time is to juxtapose, and for a good reason: “We decided to begin with Pagliacci because its prologue relates not only to this oneact opera, but it is a kind of an artistic, ideological and intellectual declaration of verismo and, as such, is equally important to both Cavalleria and Pagliacci.”
He explains that they set Cavalleria in a rather abstract space, but with marble blocks in the background to symbolize the skyline of a Southern town: “The strange thing here is that this skyline is similar to an ice formation, as well as to remote mountains of the South. They can also evoke an image of a Greek theater, and in many ways Cavalleria has obvious traits of a Greek drama.Santuzza comes from another town. She arrives from a strange land, she ruins the local world and goes away. In a sense, this is Medea’s story. So I was actually staging a Greek tragedy, which takes place among humble village people.”
The entire story of Pagliacci is even more interesting and unusual. The director has created this production as an homage to filmmaker Federico Fellini in the framework of three opera shows, dedicated to his favorite film directors. “I dedicated Pagliacci to Fellini, Madama Butterfly to Kurosawa and Tosca to Rosselini's movie Roma, Citta Aperta (Rome, Open City).” As a result, the events of Pagliacci, which originally took place in the 1870s, were moved to the epoch of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
“So these are the changes,” sums up the director. “But we do not even touch the dramatic essence of both the pieces. This is my credo.”
Del Monaco-Zukerman says that this was his most successful production, which won the Spanish Oscar as the best opera production of the year.
‘Pagliacci’ and ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’,
December 1 – 17. Israel Opera, David Stern and Yishai Steckler conduct. For reservations: (03) 692 7777