Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci

Date 3rd May 2019
Society Opera Worcester
Venue The Swan Theatre, Worcester
Type of Production Opera
Director Andrew Rawle
Musical Director Sue Black

Report

Author: Bruce Wyatt

Maintaining an important role in providing local audiences with its own brand of entertainment, Opera Worcester sets out to excel in providing a double production of Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni and I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo… and does.

The former provides an Act 1 story billed as one of rustic chivalry, or Sicilian revenge, set in a Sicilian village on Easter Sunday in the early 1900s. Full of secret passions, seduction, unrequited love, unfaithfulness and eventually revenge, directed by Andrew Rawle, the production packs a powerful performance with an emotional punch. Whilst the 17 piece orchestra under the tight control of Sue Black spilled over the orchestra pit, I never felt they overpowered the unamplified principals.

The principal line up was a mixture of professional, semi- professional and talented amateurs; Robert Forbes as ‘Turiddu’ set the standard and totally owned the stage. Rachel Prudden as ‘Lola’ and Tim Cranmore as ‘Alfio’ added great depth but for me the outstanding performance of the evening went to Rebecca Fearnley as ‘Santuzza’ . Rebecca sang with enormous power and control and brought an unforgettable level of emotion to the role.

The chorus whilst largely static were polished and the well- known ‘Easter Hymn’ was totally uplifting.

Act 2 (I Pagliacci) is set in the same village some time later, where to overcome memories of death experienced earlier,  the locals eagerly await the return of a colourful travelling theatre troupe. Here too we witness jealousy, obsessive revenge, passionate affairs, and despair when eventually on stage and off stage lives become entwined resulting again in tragedy.

Set in the same village, the stylish set remained unchanged but throughout, the lighting added superbly to the atmosphere for each scene.

Laurie Standish Hayes (‘Tonio’ / ‘Taddeo’) sang with power and silky rich tones, whilst Patricia Head as ‘Nedda’ / ‘Columbine’, as we would expect sang beautifully. Again great depth was added by John Davidson as ‘Beppe’ / ‘Harlequin’ and Phil Joseph as ‘Silvio’ and together with Mike Faulkner who played ‘Canio’ / Pagliaccio’ with strength and emotion, the principals overcame the significant challenges of this opera.

Although separate Operas, there were some clever directional touches that linked the two performances together, when briefly some characters from each appeared in the other. I doubt whether many other productions have included the clever use of handbags and umbrellas, wielded by a well-dressed chorus all under the superb direction of Andrew Rawle.