Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Opera Project Columbus: Cavalleria Rusticana Diary First Entry

Opera Project Columbus presents Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the McCoy
Center for the Arts in new Albany, June 26 and 28th .

Alessandro Siciliani conducts

Your humble servant-that would be me-directs.

Here's a welcome from the composer, Pietro Mascagni, from the his recording of the complete opera made in  1940:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the audience. I am Pietro Mascagni.  I would like to tell you about my Cavalleria which is now fifty years old.  As memories of it are closely linked with many gestures of appreciation, I was unable to resist the offer I received from 'His Master's Voice'  thus I decided to present the complete work, which appears for the first time in recorded form under my personal direction.  My work, brought to life by the most celebrated artists, collaborating with orchestral and choral talents unrivaled in the world today, will perpetuate my memory better than any signed portrait.  I have signed many autographs, but none with greater pleasure than this, the most vivid of them all, representing me a it does in the double role of conductor and composer.  I great you warmly before raising my baton.  

The conductor is responsible for what you hear
The director for that you see.
Ideally the two work well together.
AS and I DO

Or eventually do, as this diary please God will attest

But the drama of tale this tale of adultery and vengeance on a  Easter Sunday morning in Sicily is nothing compared to the machinations just far.

Rustic chivalry, my ass.

I have had one staging rehearsal. The cast is quite attractive, with excellent voices. I liked to going around pouting that  Opera Project Columbus should stay away from these Italian potboilers. Guess what? I love these Italian potboilers. Mascagni in Cavalleria has written not a short opera but a concentrated opera. There's not a wasted word or note. Musical scene painting begins immediately with Turiddu's arrogant and lovely off stage Siciliana..O Lola...if I ever get to heaven , and find you are not there, I would not stay.

There's Santuzza, the wronged woman, pregnant and abandoned in favor of the now married Lola.
Giovanni Verga, author of the short story, Cavalleria rusticana, upon which Mascagni based his opera
This is a piss lot earthier than Charles-Diana and Camilla. In this society, Santuzza is an outcast and Turiddu thinks he can get by on charm and sex. And he very nearly does. It's Santuzza who gives up Turiddu to a jealous husband. In the off stage knife fight, sealed not with the mafioso kiss of death but with one man biting the other on the ear, we lead to a crushing finale. A woman screams offstage, and then runs on to cry Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu! They have killed neighbor Turiddu.

The director will underline Mascagni's music depicting the every Sunday, Easter celebrations with a sense of foreboding, that something terrible is about to happen. Nobody quite knows what. The chorus is oblivious until a splendid moment toward the end. It's clear that Alfio and Turiddu will fight til the death. Lola, who has been flippant up til this moment, is ushered off stage by a group of women. 'Comare Lola, andiamo, via di qua. Lots of E flat., The line is simple and very tragic. Neighbor Lola, let's get away from here. This while the sun shines on Easter morning.

Soprano Lina Bruna Rasa became Mascagni's favorite Santuzza later in his life. She was schizophrenic, and would be signed out of an asylum to perform. Her bloodcurdling style puts the words and the tragedy first.

Oh yeah, the rehearsals. The chorus is learning lustily. Nice people singing beautifully who will become earthy peasants in a menacing, closed society. My handsome tenor poses a bit a la Jose Cura. He does not emulate that worthy to the extent of singing with his back turned, thus to display a splendid gluteus maximus (maximii?) We have a fine looking Santuzza with a big voice, a sexy Lola and a scary Alfio. Mama Lucia to me is the glue in this opera. She has the fewest line and needs to be the unifying presence of the entire piece. That's the first thing I've learned about directing Cavalleria

So, as of today, Mama Lucia's father has died, Turiddu is off singing a concert for a week, the understudy Turiddu bailed, and we are switching rehearsal pianists.
I've already staged as much a I can in a church basement. The singers walked into walls , walked into each other and walked into me, while singing passionately the while.  Yet to come are pacing out the musical bridges in something approximating theater space We are two weeks from performances.

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) wrote many more operas after Cavalleria. You never hear most of them. I've been listening to Iris. It's a Japanese setting pre-Madama Butterfly. Sensational music. Th opening chorus alone is splendid.  I asked Alessandro why this opera is never done. He pointed out some fine music and a ridiculous book. Iris jumps into a sewer and lingers there, transformed...a shitty liebestod...literally!


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