Festival Opera - Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci
Music Director and Conductor, José Aparicio. Napier Municipal Theatre,
Tuesday 18 February.
Reviewed by Peter Williams

Again this year a spectacular Festival Opera production heralding the start of the annual Art Deco celebrations.

Each opera in this double bill has its dark side, leading to a tragic final scene, examples of verismo – the depiction of aspects of the sometimes brutality of real life - combined, as in I Pagliacci, with sparkling humour.

Cavalleria Rusticana is the story of unfaithful love with its inevitable, dire consequences, coloured by the deeply religious sentiments of a traditional Sicilian village. I Pagliacci is a play within a play presented in the second act by a troupe of travelling actors, where the plot becomes the chilling reality of life in the village where the play is performed.


Tenor Rosario La Spina, as the philandering Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio, the leader of the troupe in I Pagliacci, and baritone José Carbó as Alfio, the travelling salesman in Cavalleria Rusticana and The Fool in I Pagliacci, gave standout performances both dramatically and vocally in both operas.

Soprano Anna Pierard shone in her convincing presentation of the peasant girl Santuzza and combined well with Lucca, played by mezzo-soprano Wendy Doole, caring mother of her philandering son Turiddu.

Toni Marie Palmertree made the role of Nedda, Canio's wife, her own in I Pagliacci, with her brilliant singing and the extraordinary range of emotions shown in combination with her secret lover, Silvio, convincingly played by baritone Kieran Rayner.

Ensembles and solos by the leads stood out, as also the part of the large three part chorus – adults, PPV members and children – which had a major part in both operas.

Just a little tentative sounding at the start of Cavalleria Rusticana but gathered strength with fine singing in the famous Easter Hymn in Cavalleria Rusticana and at the start of I Pagliacci, where the free movement of the children added sparkle to the crowd scenes.

The 50 piece orchestra, Leader Christine Cottle, was excellent, an integral part of the whole production with its sensitive and supportive accompaniment, together with beautiful playing of the famous Intermezzo in Cavalleria Rusticana and the Overture to I Pagliacci.

Absolutely no doubt about the genius behind this splendid production, music director and set designer José Aparicio, whose guiding hand, together with that of stage director John Lee Wilkie and other members of the Creative Team, was evident on every part of the performance.

■Don't miss one of the other performances – 5pm on Thursday, 7pm Saturday and 2pm Monday February 24.