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Watch: Insights into The Royal Opera’s new production of Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci

Director Damiano Michieletto and sopranos Eva-Maria Westbroek and Carmen Giannattasio discuss these passionate verismo operas.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

25 November 2015 at 1.08pm | 4 Comments

The Royal Opera’s new production of Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci was the focus of a recent live-streamed ROH Insight event, led by Director of The Royal Opera Kasper Holten.

The stream saw key figures of the creative and artistic teams come together to discuss the process of making a new production, and the challenges and rewards of performing these iconic verismo works.

Damiano Michieletto on directing a new production and how he works with singers

‘It’s important not to pretend that you have the truth, that you know everything', said acclaimed Italian director Damiano Michieletto of his role. 'It’s important to have a dialogue with the singers – because in the end, they are on stage, not me… I never show the singer what to do. I think you have to ask for an action, which the singer develops – the body is different, the memory is different, the imagination is different, and so you develop it differently’.

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Carmen Giannattasio on creating character

World-class sopranos Eva-Maria Westbroek and Carmen Giannattasio each star in The Royal Opera’s new production – Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, and Giannattasio as Nedda in Pagliacci. Giannattasio described the balance between the director’s influence and her own in a new production as ‘about 50%. I bring my ideas, my gestures, and then I get Damiano’s suggestions. I was thinking of Nedda more as a victim, but Damiano explained how there is all of that, but she’s also very sharp’.

‘The wonderful thing with these verismo operas is that it all comes together, that’s why they’re so powerful’, says Westbroek of the operas’ appeal. ‘The music, the emotion and the timing, they’re all in the same moment. It is all action – that’s why it’s so exciting.’

Both singers enthuse about the opportunity to work in this repertory with Music Director Antonio Pappano, who conducts this run of performances. Westbroek summarized: ‘It’s heaven. He’s the best; we love him. He’s amazing and inspiring; so detailed, so moving and so supportive.’

Paul Wynne Griffiths on conducting verismo operas

Paul Wynne Griffiths, a member of The Royal Opera’s music staff, is working with Pappano on the production and explores the music of these two operas – and how for the conductor ‘in every bar there is a decision to be made’.

He describes some of the specific musical techniques used by composers Mascagni and Leoncavallo: rubato, ‘not playing in tempo but making the music breathe, phrasing it’; portamento, ‘carrying the voice to make a bridge from one note to the next’; and how often the melody is held in the orchestra, while the singers ‘speak’ on a single note. He’s joined by Jette Parker Young Artists Vlada Borovko and Samuel Dale Johnson, who perform Nedda and Silvio’s duet ‘A quest’ora che imprudenza’ from Pagliacci.

Watch more films like this on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci runs 3 December 2015–1 January 2016. Tickets are still available.

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

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci will be relayed live to cinemas on 10 December 2015. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

This article has 4 comments

  1. John responded on 25 November 2015 at 1:43pm Reply

    Carmen Giannatassio has now been removed from the listings for the new production of Il Trovatore. When will you be able to tell us who is replacing her? She is obviously in good health so should we conclude that she is retiring the role?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 25 November 2015 at 3:01pm

      Hi John,

      You're correct - Carmen Giannattasio has withdrawn from the production. We will confirm a replacement soon.


      ROH Content Producer

  2. Ashley Allen responded on 1 December 2015 at 9:52pm Reply

    I just hope that Damiano Michieletto does not destroy Cav & Pag as he did with the recent production of Guillaume Tell. He ruined one of my favourite Rossini operas. I fear for the time and setting that DM will choose for the masterpieces of Mascagni & Leoncavello. Once bitten twice shy as they say. Fingers truly crossed for 03.12.15. Do not let me down!!

  3. Probably the most intelligent theatrical production I have ever seen. Damiano Michieletto is a genius. Well done!

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