Love and betrayal in ‘Cavalleria’ and ‘Pagliacci’ in Breckenridge |

Love and betrayal in ‘Cavalleria’ and ‘Pagliacci’ in Breckenridge

The opera double bill “Cavalleria Rusticana,” by Pietro Mascagni, and “Pagliacci,” by Regerro Leoncavallo, is the final high-definition Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast for the 2014-15 season.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera |

If you go

What: “Cavalleria Rusticana,” by Pietro Mascagni, and “Pagliacci,” by Regerro Leoncavallo, the final show of the 2014-15 “Met Opera: Live in HD” broadcast season

Where: The Finkel Auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge campus, 107 Denison Placer Ave., Breckenridge

When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25

Cost: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Met Members and $10 for students and children

More information: Light snacks and beverages will be provided at intermission, donation requested. For ticket information and purchase, call the National Repertory Orchestra Office at (970) 453-5825. Ticket purchase may also be made online by visiting the NRO website at

The opera double bill colloquially known as “Cav” and “Pag,” “Cavalleria Rusticana,” by Pietro Mascagni, and “Pagliacci,” by Regerro Leoncavallo, is the final high-definition Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast for the 2014-15 season. This telecast will be shown at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge on Saturday, April 25.

Each opera is a new production, created by famous Scottish opera and theater producer Sir David McVicar, with an innovative stage design by Rae Smith. Both operas are set in a Sicilian village but in different timeframes. “Cavalleria” takes place in an early 1900s village square, transformed into a 1948 truck stop for “Pagliacci.” This transition in time periods and the use of rotating stage settings, criticized in recent reviews, may require adjustment by longtime opera fans familiar with past productions. The glorious solo arias, interspersed choral ensembles and the clarity and vigor from the inspired Met orchestra under the baton of Fabio Luisi will offset initial apprehension.

“Cavalleria” opens with people mingling in the courtyard on their way to an Easter Sunday church service. Turiddu (sung by tenor Marcelo Alvarez), returning from a military assignment, is heard in the distance singing about his love for Lola, wife of the prosperous local teamster Alfio. As the people disperse with many entering a church, Santuzza (sung by Eva Marie Westbroek) remains behind, expressing her dismay over Turiddu’s new love. She has been excommunicated from the church for her past affair with Turiddu, who, after seduction, abandoned her. Santuzza ultimately informs Alfio (sung by George Gagnidze) that Turiddu is in pursuit of his wife.

The church service over, Turiddu is seen singing a drinking song along with assembled villagers. Alfio arrives and swears bloody vengeance. As the act ends, Alfio challenges Turiddu to a knife fight. After they leave the set, in time a woman enters later screaming that Turiddu is dead.

“Pagliacci,” in contrast to traditional performances, opens in front of a closed curtain, with Tonio in a clown costume announcing that the upcoming play within a play is a true story, where actors and clowns have the same joys and sorrows as real-life people. In this Met production, producer McVicar turns the prologue into a vaudeville routine. Tonio (sung by Gagnidze) appears before a bright blue curtain with gold stars evocative of vaudeville days, with microphone in hand. Three acrobatic actors in costume appear trying to drag him into the wings.

The opening scene shows a large truck filled with suitcases and other stage equipment and costumes. A “vaudeville troupe” has gathered in preparation for the performance of an evening play of love, jealousy and betrayal. The troupe is led by Canio (also sung by Marcello Alvarez), who will play the part of Pagliacci in the play. His wife, Nedda (sung by Patricia Rackette), will be Colombine, and his servant Tonio will play the part of Taddeo.

Interactions among the troupe before the play performance indicate that not all is well. Tonio is secretly courting Nedda. In one scene, he tries to force himself on her, but she beats him back. Tonio swears revenge. Nedda does have a secret lover — Silvio (sung by Lucas Meachem), who encourages her to run away with him after the evening’s performance. Tonio informs Canio of this affair. Canio, in a fit of jealousy, turns on Nedda, demanding the name of her suitor. Nedda, even when threatened with a knife, refuses to reveal the man’s name. Alone, Canio bitterly reflects in his famous aria, “Vesti la giubba,” that he with broken heart must assume the role of Pagliacci.

The troupe stages the play later that evening before the villagers near the truck stop. The play is performed in vaudeville fashion, being described in recent reviews as being ecstatic and jubilant, particularly in reference to Patricia Rackette’s role as Columbine. Within this vaudeville background, short breaks occur where recent events of real life interfere with the plot of the play. Canio suddenly, in a fit of jealousy, breaks character as the clown and stabs Nedda. In turn, he also stabs Silvio, who had broken out of the crowd to protect Nedda. Both die in front of the horrified villagers. Tonio announces that “the play is over.”

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