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Your reaction: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci

What did you think of Damiano Michieletto's new Royal Opera production of Mascagni and Leoncavallo's verismo operas?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

4 December 2015 at 1.25pm | 41 Comments

Press reviews:
Telegraph ★★★★
Guardian ★★★★
Times (£) ★★★★
Financial Times ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Arts Desk (£) ★★★★
What's On Stage ★★★★
MusicOMH ★★★★
Bachtrack ★★★★
The Stage ★★★
A Younger Theatre (No star rating, positive)

What did you think of Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci?
Let me us know via the comments below.

Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci runs until 1 January 2016. Tickets are still available.

The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 10 December 2015. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

The production is a co-production with Opera AustraliaLa Monnaie, Brussels, and The Göteborg Opera, and is given with generous philanthropic support from the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

4 December 2015 at 1.25pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Damiano Michieletto, Cavalleria rusticana, Cavalleria rusticana pagliacci, Pagliacci, Production, review, Social Media, twitter, your reaction

This article has 41 comments

  1. Liam McCann responded on 4 December 2015 at 11:36am Reply

    Glorious Verismo verismo with a twist ;)

  2. matteo gallanti responded on 4 December 2015 at 11:48am Reply

    an absolutely wonderful production, with some genius interventions from the director (the Madonna in Cavalleria, the play part in Paglicci, the running crowd at the end).
    Great singers / actors , great orchestra and conductor
    really stunning and will go back!

  3. Loge responded on 4 December 2015 at 1:18pm Reply

    Amazing production by Damiano Michieletto. A real masterpiece. Great orchestra and stunning conductor. Good singers with the only exception of Antonenko who was a disaster especially in Cavalleria Rusticana.

  4. Loge responded on 4 December 2015 at 2:36pm Reply

    Another amazing production by Damiano Michieletto. This is a real masterpiece. Excellent orchestra and stunning conductor. Good singers (Platanias sang a wonderful
    Tonio) except for Antonenko who had a difficult night especially in Cavalleria rusticana.

  5. Josy responded on 4 December 2015 at 3:13pm Reply

    Ugly and shameful, a Director who does Not understand anything.

    • Loge responded on 4 December 2015 at 4:04pm

      Ugly and shameful for what mysterious reason? If the director "does not understand anything" I assume you do so please be kind and enlighten us with your wisdom.

    • matteo gallanti responded on 4 December 2015 at 6:17pm

      You must be from the old audience of the 50s...

    • Mario responded on 11 December 2015 at 9:40pm

      I agree .These operas were perfect in every way ,Why try to change ,And distort such perfection .Those past Legends who will never be equaled Eg Caruso,Titto Gobbi .Pavarrotti ,Gili.To mention a few .All treated these operas with so much respect .

    • Mario responded on 11 December 2015 at 9:43pm

      Totally agree

  6. Maria D responded on 4 December 2015 at 4:58pm Reply

    Well deserved reviews! Went to the DR and found the production absolutely gripping (except for : Antonenko in not so great form in Cav, and was I the only one who found Sourbis' vibrato a bit annoying?) can't wait to see it in a couple of weeks...

  7. Margaret White responded on 4 December 2015 at 6:15pm Reply

    Two wonderful productions - I loved them both and it was the first time I had seen a production of either of them. Such clever productions, beautifully linked.

  8. Mattia B responded on 4 December 2015 at 7:26pm Reply

    Well, after Antonenko sung entire Cavalleria flat and on the verge on cracking on "O Lola" and his last aria I at least expected someone to comment... strangely enough absolute silence... While he managed (miraculously) to get through Pagliacci, I wonder how Pappano feels about his ridiculous singing. Platanias was the highlight of the evening with his secure voice.

  9. Roger M responded on 4 December 2015 at 10:47pm Reply

    Like Maria D, I was at the General, and am glad that this gripping production has had favourable reviews. Cannot believe that, as Ruth Elleson reports, there were booers of the production team and am glad to hear that the cheers overwhelmed them in the end. Like Loge I am utterly bemused by Josy's comment. The sets were naturalistic rather than beautiful and all the more powerful for that, and the direction was powerful, sympathetic and clearly deeply thought.

  10. This was the best production of Cavalleria and Pagliacci I have seen. The singing was as good as it gets. A real treat that I won't forget. Thank you!

  11. John M. responded on 5 December 2015 at 9:18pm Reply

    A deservedly well-received first night. Good to have Cav/Pag back on stage at ROH. The staging provided some deep insights and interesting turns and I enjoyed the opportunity for the director to show what he can do, as opposed to something else as in Guillaume Tell. The booing at the end was undeserved and out of place; to the booers, in the language of the street, I would say "Get over it!" The orchestra, conductor and chorus were on top for:m, not so some of the main singers. I worry for Mr Antonenko; he needs to be careful.

  12. Kate Freemantle responded on 5 December 2015 at 11:53pm Reply

    Haven't seen the production, but that first photo is wrongly captioned - Nedda is in Pagliacci, not Cavalleria!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 7 December 2015 at 2:40pm

      Hi Kate,

      Apologies, this has now been corrected.


      ROH Content Producer

  13. Chrissie Bates responded on 6 December 2015 at 4:56pm Reply

    This is a terrific production, and highly entertaining particularly for anyone new to opera.

    The two operas are subtly linked, and the intermezzo in each touchingly used. Despite the murder and mayhem there are witty and affectionate moments particularly with the marvellous chorus and children - eg in the Bell chorus.

    Cannot believe Damiano Michieletto was the director of the infamous William Tell - was there perhaps greater input from Kasper Holten, or is this doing the director a disservice?

    Boo-ing was inexplicable, but obviously there is mischief-making going on as in a previous comment posted here.

    A great ensemble triumph - many congratulations and thanks to all at ROH!

  14. Miriam responded on 7 December 2015 at 1:15pm Reply

    Another one who was at the General here, I enjoyed it very much and as soon as I got home I was on the website of my local cinema to book a ticket for the live broadcast although I am also coming to a performance later in the run.

    I liked the linking of the two operas and found the moment in Pagliacci when Santuzza met Mamma Lucia so touching it almost brought tears to my eyes.

    Somebody above describes it as ugly, the set is not pretty but I thought it was appropriate for a poor village, they are not all pretty like a picture-postcard.

  15. Michael responded on 7 December 2015 at 11:50pm Reply

    Absolutely wonderful. Maestro Pappano and orchestra simply stunning.
    Some of the best signing I have heard at the ROH lately.
    Love the staging. I just left the ROH stunned by what I had just heard and seen.
    Bravi a tutti.

  16. James Stark responded on 8 December 2015 at 2:57pm Reply

    I thought both were terrifically directed , conducted , acted and sung and the way the play within a play was turned inside out in Pagliacci was masterful . Not so good was the use of spotlights during Vesti la giubba they were reflected in Canio's mirror in his dressing room and completely dazzled us in the stalls circle - it is difficult to appreciate Canio's distress with fingers over your eyes !

  17. Maria SB responded on 11 December 2015 at 12:25am Reply

    Absolutely fantastic production! Wonderful work by all singers and Tony Pappano and the orchestra as always stunning. We want more productions like that- great!!!

  18. Ashley Allen responded on 11 December 2015 at 10:54am Reply

    I really enjoyed this Cav & Pag double bill and am relieved that my despair with Michieletto's appalling William Tell offering was not mirrored here. My only complaint is that Antonenko was truly in poor form last night(10 Dec). In fact I would go as far as to say that he should take an immediate rest and examine his vocal instrument. The tenor role in both Cav&Pag is a vital key to performance satisfaction and it spoilt what would have been a fantastic night of verismo. I also predict that the poor quality of his tenor role will kill off any prospect of the proposed DVD release. Antonenko "destroyed" Otello in New York and risks doing the same here in London with Cav&Pag. I would respectfully suggest that ROH should look carefully at its options for the remaining performances.

  19. Mario responded on 11 December 2015 at 9:57pm Reply

    Just to add to what I have said ,I was brought up listening to the greatest operas ,And singers of all time ,so naturally.I compare ,Nowing the story eg of Paglicci very well ,This story is about a clown in who was performing in southern Italy .The Prison where he ended up in is near Cosenza where my father is from,so I know and have seen the actual prison .where he was held ,And am passionate about this tragic story .My grandfather so Caruso performing inCosenza .But I can understand people who have no understanding of these operas thinking good about them.

  20. Ann McNair responded on 12 December 2015 at 12:44am Reply

    I note that my email registering my views regarding the soft porn in Pagliacci will not be published. I respect your right to publish or not as you see fit although I would appreciate an explanation as to why it can't be published. The point I raised is a serious one and I hope that out of concern for the plight of young women in today's society, it will be given due consideration.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 12 December 2015 at 6:42pm

      Dear Ann

      Due to the large amount of spam that is submitted to the website all comments are held for moderation. During weekends or evenings this can take a few hours, but we do publish comments unless they breach our guidelines.

      Best wishes


  21. Chiaki Ohashi responded on 13 December 2015 at 1:55am Reply

    Michieletto’s production of Cav & Pag was a truly delightful, inspirational and intelligent, and did justice not only to the music but to the grand auditorium itself. Despite its undeniable success I would just like to mention here that Michieletto did leave in this production some room for further improvements in his own thinking, which might explain as to why many reviewers gave four stars out of five. Although he did his best to show ‘how’ the two tragedies can be brought together as events taking place within a single community, he stopped short of showing the ‘why’ (putting aside the question as to whether or not that was his intention this time). The characters freely waded into one another’s theatrical space but the two operas ultimately remained as separate independent narratives, and the coincidence of their sharing the identical community (or the supposedly identical geographical location) was retained. It was funny at some particular moments when we saw this happening and the audience responded accordingly. If, however, Michieletto’s methods had been more subtle and the moments where these revelations were made were the kind that made the audience gasp rather than giggle it would have been a far greater production. However Michieletto has clearly shown to us he is capable of achieving much higher levels of sophistication, and the ROH fans has much to look forward to in his future projects.

  22. James Gordon responded on 13 December 2015 at 7:20pm Reply

    An intriguing afternoon, if ultimately a little disappointing. After Guillaume Tell, my hopes were high, but Cavandpag is a very different beast which does not benefit from an overly intellectual approach, even (or especially) in the absurdly pretentious prologue to Pagliacci. The idea of setting the two pieces in the same place is not new (so why not use the same set?), nor is updating. The idea of having characters from each piece straying into the other, so far as I know, is new, and it works well. Sicily and Calabria are close enough, and many things remained unchanged from the 1890s to the 1980s. Nedda appears early in Cav, posting playbills for Pagliacci, and later we realise that the boy from the bakery is called Silvio. But four months can still elapse in the course of a 30-minute
    interval. Subtle and clever.

    The casting is mixed. I don't like Westbrook in Italian repertoire. She hits the notes (and how!) but something is lacking. Today in particular, I simply could not believe that this big busty Valkyrie was a Sicilian girl, and the credibility of the whole piece was lost as a result. Even with Yonghoon Lee's wonderfully believable, wonderfully unattractive (and wonderfully performed) Turiddu and Elena Zilio's perfectly studied portrayal of his grief-stricken mother. No wonder Michieletto used Mamma Lucia as the framing device for the whole of Cav. I'd like to see Lee as Pinkerton.

    Antonenko disappointed. Forced at the top and wobbly elsewhere. I remember him as an outstanding Otello 3 years ago. Platanias excelled, as did Giannattasio, and both can act as well as sing, which is essential in these parts. Sourbis was warm but rather unvarying - probably right for Silvio. The chorus excelled and the orchestra seemed to relish the extra refinement of the second half. In Cav at times they were simply too loud.

    The revolve was overused. A clever idea that became rather tiresome. Was it meant to symbolise the inescapable circularity of these small lives? As a means of changing scenes quickly, it was unnecessary. These pieces are so constructed that frequent scene changes are not required.

    Comments have already been made about the lighting. Not only subdued, but defiantly non-naturalistic, and therefore at odds with the aesthetic of these works. Cav, in particular, describes an arc from dawn to mid afternoon, which was nowhere reflected on stage.

    Surtitles should summarise what is being sung, not what the director wants us to believe is being sung. If Alfio is singing about whipping horses while he drives onto the stage in a car, we should not be kept in ignorance of this just because we are assumed not to understand Italian. If the director thinks it is absurd (and he would be right in doing so), then he should update the libretto. He has already updated the stage directions.

    Where were the Mafia? Alfio, perhaps, but who else? I spent over a month in rural Calabria in the early 1990s and well remember the groups of middle-aged men in faded black jackets standing about in public spaces talking among themselves. Perhaps quite innocent, but always slightly sinister.

  23. James Campbell responded on 13 December 2015 at 7:32pm Reply

    The best production I have seen at the ROH so far. Captured an updated version of verismo by taking out the nostalga. And could you please book Yonghoon Lee again for future productions. The guy is amazing. What a voice and presence .

  24. Stephen Diviani responded on 13 December 2015 at 7:48pm Reply

    Just back from seeing the production. Tremendous staging & I liked the way the operas were linked. Musically first-rate. Thanks to all.

  25. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 17 December 2015 at 8:53am Reply

    Saw this production on 15 December. Enjoyed the overall concept but the singing in Cav was pretty woeful. Neither our tenor or soprano sang wholly in tune. Paglliaccio
    So much better. Agree the revolving stage was overused. why was the Turridu double so much thinner than the body at the end! And why say there was a to be a dual with knives when we heard gunshot? And the concept of joining the two operas is hardly new - it was done at ENO some years ago.

  26. Anthony Ashworth responded on 17 December 2015 at 4:47pm Reply

    Great to have Cav & Pag back, enjoyed the CAV and felt the production worked really well. The Pag did not work for me, and the tenor was very below par, was he unwell? Musically the orchestra were fabulous along with the chorus and the singing apart from the Canio excellent. I am of the generation that remembers Rita Hunter singing Santuzza at the ENO and she was excellent so I don't mind the Wagner type voice!

  27. Juliet Chaplin responded on 17 December 2015 at 5:40pm Reply

    I saw the dress rehearsal and first night, and then saw the live screening at the cinema. Enjoyed it all, though I thought it was a mistake to open "Cav" with a foretaste of the final scene - when the end did come it was an anti-climax whereas it should be shattering. Good point about Alfio singing about horses but entering in a car. Also it seemed from the programme that all the action took place in one day, whereas Cav is on Easter Sunday and Pag is set in mid-August. Quite true about the booing of the director on the first night and I'm sure the booers were paid to boo! A really good production with lots of interesting detail, though I still think the opening was a mistake.

  28. Ann Lees responded on 17 December 2015 at 10:28pm Reply

    Came to dress rehearsal, sat on side stalls circle. Absolutely blinded by light reflection from bakery window in Cav and In Pav could not see who was singing or what action was taking place in dressing room because of blinding light (spotlight reflecting on mirror). Told an attendant about this, is this what D. Tel. refer to as solar eclipse? Completely spoilt what should have been pleasurable experience.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 17 December 2015 at 10:42pm

      Dear Ann

      Thank you for letting us know about this issue and apologies for the impact on your enjoyment. I have passed your comments on to Opera Company Stage Management and Customer Services.

      Best wishes


  29. Gwyneth Macaulay responded on 18 December 2015 at 12:51pm Reply

    We saw this on 15 December. It is a terrific Verismo production with intelligent updating. Michieletto has more than redeemed himself after Guillame Tell. The only downside was the opening scene in Cav already showing the end of the tragedy - the dead Turiddu lying in the street. The linking of the two operas worked well. The cast - including the chorus sang and acted brilliantly - they are absolutely believable - Antonenko and Zilio are particularly fine actors and "spot on" in their parts. Westbroek sang and acted movingly but I'm not sure that she is quite the right choice for the role of downtrodden Santuzza. Giannattasio was perfect as rather naughty Nedda and so was Platanias as spivy Alfio and creepy Tonio. Pappano and orchestra glorious as ever.

  30. penelope simpson responded on 21 December 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

    Just got back and I loved it. Okay, the score is a particular favourite but the production was fab.

    Negative points: The death scene as a prologue is a mistake as it robs the end of satisfying drama. Something is wrong with Santuzza. Well sung but Westbroek is just too powerful for the role. I guess I am supposed to fell sympathy whereas I felt she was a combination of sneak/drudge.

    Choral singing wonderful and Pappano on top luscious form. I loved the bakery idea (was it my imagination or were they pumping bread smells into the auditorium?), but the constantly revolving stage took a bit of getting used to. On balance, I liked it.

    A great day. After a woeful Carmen (minus Jonas Kauffman) it was nice to just sit back and wallow in the sublime musicality.

  31. Ekaterina N responded on 22 December 2015 at 2:51pm Reply

    Wonderful production.
    What a difference from William Tell!

  32. Clause Michel Schönberg responded on 22 December 2015 at 4:16pm Reply

    I love the director. Alteady impressed by his William Tell far feom the usal Robin Hood vision.
    Very Well done the mix of 2 stories... Serious staging of the ensemble and focus on details. Very good musiclity with a conductor having a natural sense of Italian rubato. But weird position of the small stage in Pagliaci Upstage right is a weak and no energy locafion affecting the performance and the sound. Rating : 4.9 stars

  33. Liane Bierau responded on 22 December 2015 at 5:51pm Reply

    A really great production!!! I saw it yesterday for the second time (first in cinema) and found it, if possible, even better live. Apart from the fantastic music, the setting was very great as it was so natural. I know the villages and mentality of the people in the South of Italy very well and they are just like this. It was beautifully sang and acted. I found Antonenko sang much better than on the 10th, his acting is very good anyway and Westbroek was for me very convincing as Santuzza, so was Elena Zilio. For the first time, after many visits to Covent Garden since the wonderful production of Les Dialogues des Carmelites I was so moved that tears ran down my cheeks.
    The "Corpse" at the beginning did not worry me, neither did the revolving Stage, but without it the production would have been just as GREAT. I also loved the idea of "joining" the 2 operas
    and wonder why nobody thought of this before.

  34. Sasha responded on 4 January 2016 at 1:11am Reply

    I saw this four times. Everything about this production was brilliant. The staging, lighting, art direction, singing, and acting. Eva-Maria Westbroek is such a goddess on stage.

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