Wednesday, September 7, 2011


A fine production of Cavalleria Rusticana (set in Sicily) and I Pagliacci  (affectionately known as Cav & Pag) opened in Wellington last Saturday with all artistic and performance aspects firmly in place to the delight of a full house at the St James.

Usually these two works are presented as being quite independent of one another but in this production the creative forces have the action taking place in one village and on the same day. Cav is defined as being in a Sicilian village, Pag in just an Italian village, so why not in the same village and maybe on the same day, with the only downside being the three murders in the same village on one day. However there is/has been a strong Mafia presence in Sicily over the years so I guess that is not so strange.

The revolve set enhances the production and leaves the audience with the opportunity to use imagination, always a nice exercise as one sits there an lets the beautiful, powerful and enduring music roll over you.

Elizabeth Whiting’s great costume designs leave us in no doubt that this opera is in recent times and it looses nothing as the event could be of now just as when the operas were first written and performed. There is nothing to suggest that this could not happen now because not much has changed. John Parkers rocky outcrop and revolve work very well and create the sort of scenes that help unravel the works and enhance the performances. The only thing that would/might question is the height of the stage for the ‘on stage’ play and the difficulty of the cast audience craning their necks to see the performance but for the real audience (us) it is a treat.

Do go and see this work. As I sat there on Saturday night with the wonderful singing from all principals and chorus I felt enormously proud of our New Zealand Opera. Finally the Maestro Oliver von Dohnanyi is a superb conductor and demands and gets the most from the orchestral forces. Well done everyone.