Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cavalleria Rusticana

Illustration from an early edition of Giovanni Verga's short story
Cavalleria rusticana, on which the opera is based.
It was a quiet ride up to the opera.

A large taxi picked us up.

There was someone in the front seat.

There was someone in a wheel chair in the far back of the van.

We were in the middle seats.

No one would have known the others were there, for there was no conversation on the 7 km ride from our house to the theatre.

But when we were dropped off at the theatre the woman in the back of the vehicle asked if we were going to the movies and then asked what film we were going to see.

"The opera. Two actually.  Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci."

Oh, you should have heard them both.  Only their disability stopped them from hopping out of the car and coming with us.

"Next time," I called back and they nodded.

Inside the theatre there was a coterie of wheel chairs and walkers  The usher was lining them up as though he was the chauffer in a parking lot.  And he was helping the disabled up and down the stairs to their designated seats. Negotiating the stairs in the theatre is hard -- no handrails.  Kelvin's friend, Tom, from the Comprehensive Care Centre (C-3) was at the theatre as was his wife, Pat,  When I looked around at the crowd to get a sense of who we were as a group, ... nobody under 40, let alone teens.  Of course, I was flooded with wonderful memories of when I took my grandchildren.  That day will come again, but Michael is only 3 now -- too young for four hours of opera.  About all he can enjoy is singing a few nursery rhymes at breakfast so far.

I wonder if he would be so compliant if he knew I am warming him up to classical opera with those morning melodies.

Back to the theatre.I had done my homework: read the reviews and looked at the plot synopsis on wikipedia.  And I had watched utube clips from the reviews that had pointed to some links.

For one, not knowing what "slosh" means, I had gone out to see some utube vaudeville explanations, stopping briefly to watch some George Karl utube clips, namely his act with the microphones.  So when Pagliacci came on stage and that microphone chord got caught between his legs, I had been primed by my watching the day before, and I broke out into at first a giggle and then a full belly laugh, and soon it filled the room.  I was the only one in the theatre with that reaction.

I couldn't stop myself from laughing.  I should stay away from doing my pre-opera research, but it makes the opera more fun for me.

The operas were so beautifully crafted. In Cavalleria, Santuzza (Eva-Maria Westbrook) and abandoned heroine was never off the stage.  I could always find her standing, or sitting on a chair, or in the crowd, or in a passionate love duet.  The duet where the two melodies intermingled, hers professing love, and Turrido's expressing distain and rejection of her...well, that is why I love the opera.

The tenor, Marcelo Alvarez, took the part of the villain in both Cavalleria and Pagliacci.  He stopped by Susan Graham, the host, to just say hello and note that he had only 25 minutes for his costume change.  Who doesn't love that back-stage part of the opera?  I know that hundreds of thousands of viewers are viewing along with me, but it feels as though I am alone back there, either watching the performers or watching the set of one opera being taken apart and the set of another being put in place.

The opera, Pagliacci had it all:  Nedda came riding in on a beautiful carnival horse, confetti fell from the sky when the circus came to town, the vaudeville act was present both in the opera and in the play-within-the opera, the costuming of the early '40's in an Italian village was perfect; the vaudeville truck was shown being unloaded for the evening's spectacle.

Horrifying  as it was, the opera mixed the comedy on stage with the tragedy that will take place in the last few minutes of the fiction in the mini-play we watch.  And then that last line ... La commedia è finita! – "The comedy is finished!"

Thank goodness, opera will go on, even if the comedy is finished.

Anyone else see Satuday's opera?


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