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This film adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli features the often jointly staged double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci  by Ruggero Leoncavallo. This combination has been frequently presented by many major opera houses throughout the world and it’s a truly rare treat to have it brought to our homes in this excellent production! CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA ****** PIETRO MASCAGNI CAST: Santuzza: Elena Obraztsova Turiddu: Placido Domingo Lucia: Fedora Barbieri Alfio: Renato Bruson Lola: Axelle Gall Filmed in Vizzini, Sicily, this opera does not only dazzle with beautiful vocals and music, but also with authentic scenery going back to the roots of a traditional Italian village. In fact many of the costumes and props have been borrowed from local residents in an attempt to infuse some historic flavor into the undertaking. Because many of the scenes were shot outside, in fields, streets or in buildings, this adaptation immediately feels a lot more open, broader than what you would experience in an opera house. The quality of the picture is definitely not excellent, but its gritty character does contribute to adding  more realism to the production. During the overture we are slowly introduced to scenes from the village life and the mood is set for the events about to transpire. Granted that even though the views shown appear very picturesque, strongly evoking a pastoral idyll, there is not much going on in the first few minutes and the recipient might be slightly confused. But soon we are transformed to the world of Santuzza’s pain and despair, where her beloved Turriddu seduces her, only to discard the naïve woman as soon as his former girlfriend (now married to somebody else) gives him the time of day again. Betrayed, dishonored, jealous and hurt, Elena Obraztsova does an excellent job of portraying our Heroine’s dreary circumstances. Santuzza certainly belongs to the showcase roles in the operatic repertoire, her arias are charged with anguish, longing, but also anger and humiliation. Generally the acting in this production can certainly be seen as quite outstanding: dramatic and expressive, but still refined enough to convey subtle nuances in the protagonists’ feelings or thoughts. The depiction of the Easter procession impressed me with its explosion of colors and vivid imagery: it gave the spectator an excellent insight into what kind of religious elements were displayed during such an important holiday in rural Italy at the time (late 19th century). The role of religion cannot be overlooked in this love drama, as everything does center around the old fashioned Catholic values, the morality of the characters measured by their compliance or refusal to follow those norms. And so we have the good, honest, loving Santuzza as opposed to Lola, the slutty Harlot who wants to have her cake and eat it, thinking nothing of extramarital affairs and leading Turiddu astray. Axelle Gall appears just lascivious enough for us to instantly understand her appeal to a simple village boy, the sophisticated seductress so much more exciting than the faithful and good-natured Santuzza. Even though this adaptation begins a little slowly, once the action started it kept me at the edge of my seat, the raw, intense drama really drew me in! It’s a very moving piece and I ended up truly rooting for the characters, deeply caring about what happens to them, even though I obviously knew the outcome beforehand. Jealousy, rage, pain, betrayal, lost honor and sacrifice are major emotions shaping the plot, the vehicle for the whole drama. Santuzza, a woman scorned, is ultimately unable to maintain her noble persona and opts for revenge, her moment of weakness directly contributing to her Lover’s death. One must definitely note that the plot here is rather simplified, unfortunately a circumstance quite difficult to avoid in such a short opera. Zeffirelli fills in the gaps during the musical Intermezzos with his own cinematographic interpretation of what could be happening; we would not have witnessed that on stage. The abrupt ending sets the last highly dramatic note, the perfect final touch: the opera stops immediately after it is announced that the protagonist is dead. Although in my case, as I was comfortably settling on the couch with a bunch of tissues, ready to enjoy the aftermath of such powerful catharsis, my Darling proceeded to ruin the whole thing by gleefully reenacting all other alternative outcomes he deemed absolutely crucial to share and thus I concluded my viewing in convulsions of merriment rather than profoundly sad and inspired… Men! PAGLIACCI ****** RUGGERO LEONCAVALLO CAST: Canio  (Pagliaccio): Placido Domingo Nedda (Columbina): Teresa Stratas Tonio (Taddeo): Juan Pons Peppe (Arlecchino): Florindo Andreolli Silvio: Alberto Rinaldi The winner of an Emmy award, this adaptation features a truly magnificent duo of leading performers: Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas play their roles in the most convincing manner. We clearly see both Canio’s brutal passion and Nedda’s desperate revulsion; furthermore we end up empathizing with both of those characters at the same time, understanding their suffering and the motives for losing their moral ground. Domingo constitutes the ideal counterpart to the delicate, dreamy Stratas: we can immediately notice what a mismatched, unhappy couple they are and experience a distinct sense of foreboding. Even though opera as such certainly cannot be perceived as the most realistic artistic medium, we are fully caught up in the evolving drama. Also Juan Pons as the disfigured Tonio is worthy of the highest praise, he keeps the perfect balance between a sensitive man in love and an evil monster lusting for revenge. The sets, even though not as open as in Cavalleria, still manage to create a fairly realistic backdrop to the plot. But because here we are less distracted by the scenery, we can concentrate more on the actual essence of this piece, its highly explosive mixture of misplaced emotions. Domingo’s interpretation of Vesti La Giubba should move even the most hardened heart and has truly helped to write operatic history. The tragic hero becomes even more so when the depth of his all consuming pain is contrasted with the ridiculous clown costume that has become a part of his identity. One can only imagine what that must do to a man so proud, so possessive and protective of his masculinity. The play within a play technique utilized here serves to enhance the dramatic effect: the actual story is duplicated in the clown show parody performed by the alter egos of the protagonists.  As they commence to recreate the newly transpired events in their Harlequin costumes, the result appears to be both intriguing and unsettling. The recipient watches reality and acting blend into one, witnesses the clown characters on stage go through the whole spectrum of comic expressions meant to imitate true feelings only to ultimately turn into their real selves, the humor intertwined with passion and pain. And after everything goes awry and the inevitable blood-chilling ending descends upon us with bodies dropping all over the place, the most striking words are uttered and resonate deep within our consciousness as the last of the music fades away: La commedia e finita! (the comedy is over).
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VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!!  VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!! VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!! CARPE DIEM!!! CARPE DIEM!!! CARPE DIEM!!!
This film adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli features the often jointly staged double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci  by Ruggero Leoncavallo. This combination has been frequently presented by many major opera houses throughout the world and it’s a truly rare treat to have it brought to our homes in this excellent production! CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA ****** PIETRO MASCAGNI CAST: Santuzza: Elena Obraztsova Turiddu: Placido Domingo Lucia: Fedora Barbieri Alfio: Renato Bruson Lola: Axelle Gall Filmed in Vizzini, Sicily, this opera does not only dazzle with beautiful vocals and music, but also with authentic scenery going back to the roots of a traditional Italian village. In fact many of the costumes and props have been borrowed from local residents in an attempt to infuse some historic flavor into the undertaking. Because many of the scenes were shot outside, in fields, streets or in buildings, this adaptation immediately feels a lot more open, broader than what you would experience in an opera house. The quality of the picture is definitely not excellent, but its gritty character does contribute to adding  more realism to the production. During the overture we are slowly introduced to scenes from the village life and the mood is set for the events about to transpire. Granted that even though the views shown appear very picturesque, strongly evoking a pastoral idyll, there is not much going on in the first few minutes and the recipient might be slightly confused. But soon we are transformed to the world of Santuzza’s pain and despair, where her beloved Turriddu seduces her, only to discard the naïve woman as soon as his former girlfriend (now married to somebody else) gives him the time of day again. Betrayed, dishonored, jealous and hurt, Elena Obraztsova does an excellent job of portraying our Heroine’s dreary circumstances. Santuzza certainly belongs to the showcase roles in the operatic repertoire, her arias are charged with anguish, longing, but also anger and humiliation. Generally the acting in this production can certainly be seen as quite outstanding: dramatic and expressive, but still refined enough to convey subtle nuances in the protagonists’ feelings or thoughts. The depiction of the Easter procession impressed me with its explosion of colors and vivid imagery: it gave the spectator an excellent insight into what kind of religious elements were displayed during such an important holiday in rural Italy at the time (late 19th century). The role of religion cannot be overlooked in this love drama, as everything does center around the old fashioned Catholic values, the morality of the characters measured by their compliance or refusal to follow those norms. And so we have the good, honest, loving Santuzza as opposed to Lola, the slutty Harlot who wants to have her cake and eat it, thinking nothing of extramarital affairs and leading Turiddu astray. Axelle Gall appears just lascivious enough for us to instantly understand her appeal to a simple village boy, the sophisticated seductress so much more exciting than the faithful and good-natured Santuzza. Even though this adaptation begins a little slowly, once the action started it kept me at the edge of my seat, the raw, intense drama really drew me in! It’s a very moving piece and I ended up truly rooting for the characters, deeply caring about what happens to them, even though I obviously knew the outcome beforehand. Jealousy, rage, pain, betrayal, lost honor and sacrifice are major emotions shaping the plot, the vehicle for the whole drama. Santuzza, a woman scorned, is ultimately unable to maintain her noble persona and opts for revenge, her moment of weakness directly contributing to her Lover’s death. One must definitely note that the plot here is rather simplified, unfortunately a circumstance quite difficult to avoid in such a short opera. Zeffirelli fills in the gaps during the musical Intermezzos with his own cinematographic interpretation of what could be happening; we would not have witnessed that on stage. The abrupt ending sets the last highly dramatic note, the perfect final touch: the opera stops immediately after it is announced that the protagonist is dead. Although in my case, as I was comfortably settling on the couch with a bunch of tissues, ready to enjoy the aftermath of such powerful catharsis, my Darling proceeded to ruin the whole thing by gleefully reenacting all other alternative outcomes he deemed absolutely crucial to share and thus I concluded my viewing in convulsions of merriment rather than profoundly sad and inspired… Men! PAGLIACCI ****** RUGGERO LEONCAVALLO CAST: Canio  (Pagliaccio): Placido Domingo Nedda (Columbina): Teresa Stratas Tonio (Taddeo): Juan Pons Peppe (Arlecchino): Florindo Andreolli Silvio: Alberto Rinaldi The winner of an Emmy award, this adaptation features a truly magnificent duo of leading performers: Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas play their roles in the most convincing manner. We clearly see both Canio’s brutal passion and Nedda’s desperate revulsion; furthermore we end up empathizing with both of those characters at the same time, understanding their suffering and the motives for losing their moral ground. Domingo constitutes the ideal counterpart to the delicate, dreamy Stratas: we can immediately notice what a mismatched, unhappy couple they are and experience a distinct sense of foreboding. Even though opera as such certainly cannot be perceived as the most realistic artistic medium, we are fully caught up in the evolving drama. Also Juan Pons as the disfigured Tonio is worthy of the highest praise, he keeps the perfect balance between a sensitive man in love and an evil monster lusting for revenge. The sets, even though not as open as in Cavalleria, still manage to create a fairly realistic backdrop to the plot. But because here we are less distracted by the scenery, we can concentrate more on the actual essence of this piece, its highly explosive mixture of misplaced emotions. Domingo’s interpretation of Vesti La Giubba  should move even the most hardened heart and has truly helped to write operatic history. The tragic hero becomes even more so when the depth of his all consuming pain is contrasted with the ridiculous clown costume that has become a part of his identity. One can only imagine what that must do to a man so proud, so possessive and protective of his masculinity. The play within a play technique utilized here serves to enhance the dramatic effect: the actual story is duplicated in the clown show parody performed by the alter egos of the protagonists.  As they commence to recreate the newly transpired events in their Harlequin costumes, the result appears to be both intriguing and unsettling. The recipient watches reality and acting blend into one, witnesses the clown characters on stage go through the whole spectrum of comic expressions meant to imitate true feelings only to ultimately turn into their real selves, the humor intertwined with passion and pain. And after everything goes awry and the inevitable blood-chilling ending descends upon us with bodies dropping all over the place, the most striking words are uttered and resonate deep within our consciousness as the last of the music fades away: La commedia e finita! (the comedy is over).
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