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Schedule - Deutsche Oper Berlin

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Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci

Pietro Mascagni (1863 – 1945) / Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857 – 1919)

Information on the piece

“Cavalleria Rusticana”
Melodramma in one act by Pietro Mascagni
Libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, based on an novel by Giovanni Verga
First performance on 17. May 1890 in Rome
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 23. April 2005

“Pagliacci”
Drama in two acts by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo
First performance on 21. May in Milan
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 23. April 2005

3 hrs / 1 interval

In Italian with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

recommended from 14 years
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Cast
Cavalleria rusticana
Pagliacci
Cast
Cavalleria rusticana
Pagliacci
About the performance

About the work
Young composers in an Italy on the cusp of the 20th century wanted to stir up their audiences, ambush them with comic and tragic twists cribbed from their own lives. The template for this they found in the verismo movement in literature [derived from “vero” = true-to-life]. No surprise, then, that Pietro Mascagni chose a novella written in 1880 by its principle exponent, Giovanni Verga, as the basis for his first opera. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA [Engl.: Sicilian peasant chivalry] had already proven itself in a stage production that toured to Mascagni’s home town of Livorno, among other locations. Mascagni easily scooped first prize with his debut work in a competition for one-act operas laid on by Sonzogno, a publisher, in 1888/89. The triumphant world premiere on 17th May 1890 is considered the first-ever piece of veristic music.

Two years were to pass before Ruggero Leoncavallo penned PAGLIACCI, a short opera whose prologue encapsulates the verismo manifesto: “The artist is a human being and must write for human beings […] We are of flesh and blood and we breathe the same air of this forlorn world as you do.” Leoncavallo’s dialectic feat in this tale reminiscent of the ‘Miscellany’ section of a newspaper consisted in the heightened tragedy of the actor playing the role of the clown and not managing to separate buffoonery from seriousness.

It soon became standard procedure to mount these two major works of musical verismo as a double bill – known by its double-barrelled acronym ‘CAV/PAG’. Like twins, they resemble each other, yet they could hardly be more different in nature: the overture is interrupted by singing; the two acts are linked by an interlude [CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, too, is a two-acter (compliance with the competition’s “in one act” rule required only that it be printed on the title page)]; southern Italian atmosphere, genre scenes involving choruses singing of orange fragrance and church bells. So far, so similar. Otherwise, with Mascagni we have late-period bel canto, with Leoncavallo leitmotifs and complex orchestrations; here religious discipline and a rigid moral code, there vivacity and spontaneity.

About the production
The double bill is David Pountney’s second production at the Deutsche Oper Berlin after his version of Busoni’s DOKTOR FAUST and before Meyerbeer’s LES TROYENS. In both PAGLIACCI and CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA he marries gritty social realism with the atmosphere of the southern Italian locations. The smouldering passion of the narrated stories is what drives the action forwards. Universal feelings bubble up in the lives of the “simple” folk and weltschmerz literally finds its way onto the street. The straightforward scenography of Robert Innes Hopkins lends itself perfectly to the roughness and tristesse of real life. And precisely the juxtaposition of playful exuberance and sombre bitterness ticks the aesthetic/philosophical box underpinning the verismo concept: to show the world as it is.

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