Cavalleria Rusticana in Concert by Pietro Mascagni

When & Where Saturday, February 12, 7:30pm & Sunday, February 13, 2pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Conductor Jonathan Darlington Assistant Conductor Leslie Dala Lighting Design Andrew Pyle Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

Santuzza Othalie Graham, soprano Turiddu David Pomeroy, tenor Alfio Gregory Dahl, baritone Mamma Lucia Leah Giselle Field, mezzo-soprano, Lola Hillary Tufford, mezzo-soprano

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Reviewer John Jane

Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (Italian for Rustic Chivalry) is considered the first, of what was to be many to follow, verismo opera, which at its heart, is a story about ordinary people living everyday lives. This concert version of Mascagni’s one-act opera is everything that one might expect it to be - passionate arias and the heart stopping, famous Intermezzo.

Set on an Easter Sunday around 1900 in a village in Sicily, the villagers are preparing for church. Turiddu has rekindled his love for Lola; she and Turiddu had been romantically involved before he joined the army. When he returned and found her married to Alfio, he then seduced Santuzza on the rebound, but has now callously abandoned her. Santuzza cries on the shoulder of Mamma Lucia about Turiddu. When Santuzza confronts Turiddu about Lola, he denies everything. Not impressed, Santuzza lays it out to Alfio about Lola and Turiddu, which sets him off to challenge Turiddu to a duel to the death.

Music Director Emeritus Jonathan Darlington returns to Vancouver for two performances of Cavalleria Rusticana in Concert. Working again with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, he unfurls the richly melodic opening prelude, while the orchestra responds with some exquisite playing. Heard, but unseen on stage, Newfoundland tenor David Pomeroy’s Turiddu sings La Siciliana, a beautiful serenade to Lola.

Standing behind the orchestra is the more than two dozen member of the Vancouver opera Chorus. Essentially, they play the role of the villagers, who among other functions form the church choir in singing the introductory chorus Gli aranci olezzano sui verdi margini and the beautifully inspiring Regina coeli laetare (The Easter Hymn) with Leah Giselle Field and Othalie Graham.

Brampton, Ontario soprano Othalie Graham is wonderful as Santuzza. Her voice is confident and robust, even as the sadly mistreated whiner who complains to Turiddu’s mother in the poignant aria Voi lo sapete. But it’s David Pomeroy as Turiddu who gets to sing arguably the best arias. Turiddu’s final aria Un bacio, mamma! Un altro bacio!—Addio! is the most touching. By contrast his duet with mezzo-soprano Hillary Tufford, supported by the chorus, Viva il vino spumeggiante (Here's to the frothing wine) is boisterous and airy. I would love to have seen more of Hillary Tufford, but alas, the role of Lola, the temptress who ruins everybody’s life, gets short shrift in this format.

The concert format probably helps baritone Gregory Dahl avoid making Alfio into a caricature. The naive teamster seems blissfully ignorant of his wife Lola’s infidelity in his optimistic delivery of Il cavallo scalpita.

It was wonderful to have the charismatic Jonathan Darlington on the stage for this performance. I would certainly welcome a full production version of Cavalleria Rusticana in a future season – with the same cast.

© 2022 John Jane