Five reasons to go see La Monnaie’s Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci

The Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci double opera bill is coming back to La Monnaie / De Munt after a notable absence, kicking off the new year with flair and drive. Already a huge success at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as well as winner of the Olivier Award for Best Opera Production, these two late-19th century Italian productions are sure to astound the senses. As La Monnaie aptly predicts, “Reality becomes theatre and, when the masks drop, the theatre becomes reality.” Taking to the stage next week Tuesday 6th of March, we select five reasons why this month-long production is one to be noted.

One of the most popular examples of double-bill operas around, Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci were first presented together as the oft-donned Cav/Pag double bill by the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1895. The two hour-long short operas are set to return to La Monnaie / De Munt after a long 15-year hiatus, making for an exciting start to the year.

Catherine Ashmore (c).

Cav/Pag make up what they lack in length with fiery and passionate performances of love and longing, jealousy and vengeance. Both set in rural southern Italy, it’s one of the first examples of the verismo musical style, moving away from the more traditional themes of mythology and aristocracy, and choosing to focus instead on the “simple” rural life.

Catherine Ashmore (c).

Defined by their raw energies and the physical limitations of human emotion, these salt-of-the-earth heroes of Calabria and Sicily are acted out by a star-studded international cast. From Italian conductor Evelino Pidò, Texan bariton and public favourite Scott Hendricks to Dutch star and soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, the crew alone is sure to deliver.

Catherine Ashmore (c).

Furthermore, stage director Damiano Michieletto is a renowned figure throughout Europe’s opera scene for his pertinent contemporary reinterpretations of Italian repertoires. Returning to La Monnaie after his previous production L’elisir d’amore, Michieletto has worked to create a real coherence between the Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci through values of honour and vengeance, and of the characters’ common belonging of poverty and hypocrisy. He also carefully devises set and constume designs heavily inspired by Italian neorealist cinema; itself a stylistic heir of the literary verismo movement. Deftly mixing comedy with tragedy, the Venetian stage director skillfully allows for the dramas to speak for themselves.

Catherine Ashmore (c).

Finally, Cav/Pag are musically linked by a similar concise flair for dramatic melodies and rich lyricism. The double bill contains some of the most notorious operatic arias, like the heart-wrenching Vesti la giubba in Pagliacci, famously sung by the heavyweights Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti. And don’t be suprised if some of the Cavalleria rusticana scores sounds familiar: they’re sure to be recognisable from film classics Raging Bull and The Godfather III. Not to be missed.

Running from 6th to 22nd of March.
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