Cav & Pag – two operas, three murders, four love affairs, and a string of greatest hits
Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (or Cav & Pag as they’re more commonly known) form opera’s most famous double bill. These two one-act operas, with their emotive, true-to-life storylines told through passionate and thrilling music, signified the beginning of verismo as an opera style – realistic depictions of everyday life that are so real, “sometimes you don’t know if you’re acting or in real life, the line is so thin”, says Marcin Bronikowski who sings Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana and Silvio in Pagliacci. Or as Warwick Fyfe, Tonio in Pagliacci, says of that opera: “Pagliacci is the archetypal verismo opera – musical shock treatment: sweaty, intense and creaturely; a short but devastating primal scream of an opera.”
The NBR New Zealand Opera’s production of Cav & Pag, opening in Wellington on Saturday 27 August and Auckland on Thursday 15 September, will be raw and real, with plenty for today’s audiences to identify with. “Though they were written over 100 years ago, these two operas have a modern sensibility,” General Director of the opera company, Aidan Lang, says. “In the theatre, under the expertise of English director Mike Ashman and New Zealanders John Parker (set designer) and Elizabeth Whiting (costume designer), you’ll be treated to a dynamic, contemporary experience. You won’t see anything old fashioned in these operas. They’re being created in a fresh, intelligent and exciting manner.”
Two top-notch casts, hailing from all corners of the globe and under the baton of acclaimed Slovakian maestro Oliver von Dohnanyi, take the stage.
Cavalleria rusticana features English tenor Peter Auty as Turiddu, Ukrainian soprano Anna Shafajinskaia sings Santuzza, Polish baritone Marcin Bronikowski (Marcello in La bohème, 2008) is Alfio, and New Zealanders Anna Pierard and Wendy Doyle sing the roles of Lola and Mamma Lucia respectively.
Pagliacci sees Mexican tenor Rafael Rojas take the role of Canio while American soprano Elizabeth Futral sings Nedda, Australian baritone Warwick Fyfe is Tonio, Marcin Bronikowski sings Silvio, and Kiwi Andrew Glover is Beppe.
“Cavalleria rusticana has some of the most beautiful music ever written, inspired by some of the less admirable but always stage-worthy human traits: jealousy, betrayal, lust and revenge. All this in one act!” – Anna Pierard (Lola in Cavalleria rusticana)
Even if you’re new to Cav & Pag, the chances are very high that you’ll recognise much of the music, particularly Cavalleria rusticana which has been used in everything from commercials to the movie The Godfather Part 3. “Cav & Pag is a veritable ‘greatest hits’ of opera,” Lang says. “From the rousing Easter Hymn and the famous Intermezzo in Cavalleria rusticana, to one of the greatest of all tenor arias, Pagliacci’s heart-rending ‘Vesti la giubba’, expect the recognition button to be switched on.”
Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are sung in Italian with English surtitles. They are accompanied by the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, with the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.