> Cavalleria Rusticana - Pagliacci [AB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana

Santuzza Elena Obraztsova
Turiddu Plácido Domingo
Alfio Renato Bruson
Produced at La Scala, Milan, the ICET film studios and on location in Vizzini, Sicily in 1982
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Canio Plácido Domingo
Nedda Teresa Stratas
Tonio Juan Pons
Produced at La Scala, Milan, and the ICET film studios in 1982
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scale, Milan/Georges Prêtre
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Aspect Ratio- 4:3;Audio-Dolby Digital 5.1/LPCM Stereo
PHILIPS DVD Video 070 428-9 [142 mins]

Cavalleria Rusticana is set in rural Sicily and Zeffirelli presents extensive scenes of the Sicilian countryside with sheep, rocks and authentic village buildings, including a large Baroque church which dominates the action. Here the director is at his best in depicting the atmosphere of Sicilian life; unfortunately the colouring is pale and wishy-washy and the camera always seems to be only just in focus. This same weakness also affects the filming of Pagliacci.

Although Cavalleria Rusticana is not the most subtle of operas, it is very dramatic and when placed in the correct environment, as it is here and given good singing, it cannot fail. The performance of Plácido Domingo is excellent and he is in very good voice. The other soloists also give good performances, although Elena Obraztsova does not sound very Italian. The chorus sings well, especially in the Easter Hymn. Overall, despite the technical problems with the filming, this opera is very enjoyable.

I wish I could say the same about Pagliacci. Here Zeffirelli has brought the action forward into the inter-war years in a setting which is set in a deliberately barren landscape and a claustrophobic agglomeration of theatrical props and a staging which emphasises the poverty and coarseness of the characters. Most performances of the opera are placed in a theatrical setting which adds a dream-like patina to the story. Here however the sordid story has its unpleasantness emphasised and it is impossible to empathise with any of the characters. The nature of the colours and filming as mentioned above serves to emphasise the unpleasantness of the story. Thus the often poetic tone of the music is to naught. As in Cavalleria, Plácido Domingo puts in an excellent performance and the other members of the cast sing well (Teresa Stratas is a particularly credible Nedda).

Throughout the DVD, Georges Prêtre proves a competent conductor but without any special feeling for the music. The design of the sleeve is rather unattractive, but the booklet notes by Julian Budden are especially good.

Overall, although Cavalleria Rusticana has positive features it would be hard to recommend this disc.

Arthur Baker

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