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On the centenary of Franco Zeffirelli's birth, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma has chosen to remember him with one of its most beloved productions: Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. The revival, staged from 12 to 19 March 2023, was created in 1992 for Opera di Roma and since then it has always been revived with great success. I was in the theater on 12 March 2023. At the end, there were long ovations and requests for encores.
The extreme passions of love and hate of Leoncavallo's masterpiece are entrusted to the reading of Daniel Oren, who returns to direct the opera house orchestra after thirteen years of absence. Much loved in Rome, where he has conducted more than thirty operas since 1979, Oren was also on the podium at this revival. Oren was also on the podium at the first of this take. The direction by Franco Zeffirelli, who also signed the sets, is taken up by Stefano Trespidi. The colorful costumes are by Raimonda Gaetani, while the lighting is by Vinicio Cheli.
Pagliacci is a 'voices opera', in which the singers (and the choir) have a central role. In the sensual part of Nedda-Colombina, Nino Machaidze and Valeria Sepe (16 and 18 March) are engaged in this revival.
Her husband and comedian Canio-Pagliaccio is played by Brian Jagde, a generous American tenor making his double debut both in Rome and in the role, and by Luciano Ganci (14, 16, 17 and 19 March).
The hunchbacked and vengeful Tonio-Thaddeus is embodied by Amartuvshin Enkhbat and Roman Burdenko (March 16 and 19).
Matteo Falcier is the mild Beppe, a light tenor, and Vittorio Prato is Silvio, who like Nedda, will fall, killed by Canio's dagger.
On stage the choir is prepared by Ciro Visco, with the participation of the children's choir and the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma dance school.
Initially, the role of Nedda was thought by Zeffirelli for Cecilia Gasdia (who played her in 1992), but Nino Machaidze has, in my opinion, a thicker and dramatically more suitable voice. On 12 March, the 'voices' had thunderous applause, if not ovations, for over a quarter of an hour, especially Brian Jagde after 'Vesti la Giubba'.
The verismo drama, in a prologue and two acts, which debuted on 21 May 1892 at the Dal Verme Theatre in Milan, is set on the outskirts of a degraded southern Italian city in the sixties. On the gray backdrop of a railing building teeming with a colorful humanity - between bikes, cars and scooters of the time - the bloody story of jealousy takes place; it mixes fiction and reality, with an alternation of pathetic, grotesque and sentimental accents, in the representation of a company of actors, jugglers and acrobats, who arrived aboard a camper.
It would take place in a town in southern Calabria, but it could be a sunny Catania as seen from Etna. 'The veristic atmosphere of Pagliacci', declared Zeffirelli at the time of the creation of the production in 1992, 'allows this "realist" actualization taking into account that the work is entitled Pagliacci, as if to say that for Leoncavallo we are all a bit clowns, that the world itself is a clown. Curiously, it is the same vision that the old Verdi proposes at the end of Falstaff: "The whole world is a joke". There is, however, a fundamental difference: for Verdi it is a real joke, while Pagliacci is a very painful adventure of blood and love.'
Pagliacci is almost always paired with Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. In fact, the model follows, even if it has neither the thickness nor the breadth of Cavalleria. It deals with a story of sex and blood in a Calabrian village that Leoncavallo claimed to have seen as a young man when, in that town, his father took the first steps of a career in the judiciary. However, the plot is very similar to a successful French play in those years: La Femme du Tabarin by Catullo Mendès. It is written like the chronicle of a provincial newspaper and sports two tenors, one lyrical and one dramatic. The dramatic tenor and soprano are entrusted with very arduous parts. It is sometimes performed alone or combined with another opera or ballet in one act. (La Scala has often paired it with Nino Rota's La Strada.) In television terms, its natural tow is Cavalleria. It is the only verismo opera by Leoncavallo, who, highly cultured - indeed erudite - and older than the other composers of his generation, devoted himself to historical works (from grand opéra padano) to operettas, 'transforming' himself every time he turned to a different style.
Copyright © 15 March 2023