A Warning of Great Feelings
Atmosphere is the hardest thing to create in theatre. It is intangible and ethereal and at times even when all the necessary ingredients are there it somehow does not come. In this particular production, though, an atmosphere of small Italian town is certainly there from the very first note. Narrow streets kissed by the generous sun, passionate hearts and ever-present children who are allowed to run free.
Astounding music by two great Italian composers commands everything here, and yet thoughtful direction and inspired singing (and acting) never let the truthfulness of the tone down.
I would call this production a warning; great feelings are wonderful to have, but, if we can't master and control them, disaster might be inevitable.
Both Santuzza and Tonio fall victims to their passion and desire for vengeance. But, while Santuzza clearly regrets her behaviour, Tonio does not. Nevertheless, we somehow know that one day he will pay for what he has done to Nedda, Kanio and Silvio. He undoubtedly will, because Destiny is one of the major characters of the evening: Madonna suddenly comes to life during the festive procession and points her all-knowing finger at terrified Santuzza (or her very soul!) Heaven knows and sees everything.
An inventive director creates a continuous narrative by introducing first meeting of Nedda and Silvio during one of the charming musical passages of Cavalleria Rusticana. We see posters of the upcoming performance by the troupe of Pagliacci being deployed on the walls of the local bakery. We see tickets being obtained with rigorous enthusiasm.
In the second opera performance itself takes place both on and off stage, so the line between reality and theatre gets blurred.
Every singer is at the top of their game, voices are beautiful, gestures are expressive, characters are well drawn. Only once Nedda finds herself on the stage floor trying to draw question marks just below Kanio 's waistline. Why does she do that? Was it necessary at all? But this small let down gets easily and quickly forgotten in the magnificence of the entire production, over flooded by the spectacular, faultless sound of Pappano's virtuoso orchestra.
The chorus of Royal Opera House deserves the whole separate list of compliments. They are simply amazing! And when in the end of the evening enormous projectors suddenly illuminate blooded stage of Pagliacci, one truly wants to say: "Bravi and thank you for the joy of real Art!"