Leoncavallo: Pagliacci & Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana

Release Date: 9 April, 2021

Label: Naxos

Running time: 157 mins


The Prologue appears and warns that what we are about to see and hear is an attempt to depart from the traditional way of presenting lyrical theatre works.


A troop of actors led by Canio arrives and is greeted by an enthusiastic audience who look forward to seeing them perform later that night.

Backstage, Canio’s wife Nedda once again rejects the actor Tonio who is in love with her. Furious, Tonio swears he will have revenge. When he overhears Nedda promise her lover, Silvio, that she will leave the theatre troupe after that night’s performance and run away with him, Tonio informs Canio. He surprises the couple, but Silvio manages to run away. When Canio threatens Nedda physically if she refuses to reveal her lover’s name, Tonio and Beppe, another actor, intervene.

Canio must prepare to perform his role of cuckolded husband, a role which has now also become the reality of his life.

The audience arrive, including Silvio, and the comedy begins. Nedda plays the part of Colombina who cuckolds her unsuspecting husband Pagliaccio (Canio), with the handsome Arlecchino (Beppe), while the foolish servant Thaddeo (Tonio), is ridiculed for attempting to seduce Colombina. Stage action and real-life increasingly mirror one another, until Canio forgets which role he is playing and stabs first his wife and then her lover to death. The comedy is over.

Cavalleria rusticana

Turiddu was in love with Lola, but when he returned from military service, he discovered that she had married Alfio. On the rebound he started a relationship with Santuzza. But Turiddu has tired of her and has secretly started up again with Lola. Santuzza suspects that Turiddu is unfaithful to her, and confronts first his mother, Mamma Lucia, who says she cannot intervene, and then Turiddu himself. She begs her lover to return to her, but Turiddu refuses to yield to her jealous pleas and threats, and rejects her. In revenge Santuzza tells Alfio what Lola and Turiddu have been doing behind his back. Alfio confronts Turiddu and they duel. Turiddu is killed.

The young soprano Ailyn Pérez is ideal for the role of Nedda, as her voice has turned into something that is purely lyrical. She has a beautiful, velvet timbre that is completely even from the lowest to the highest register. Her singing is effortless and if there is an adjective that defines her performance it is freshness, both vocally and character-wise. Her aria “Qual fiamma avea nel guardo!” and her duet with Silvio is executed with delicacy, hope and love, using mezza-voce and pianissimi to color her phrases. She executes two clean trills on her aria and the several B flats of the duet sound easy and free. Pérez has control in her middle and lower register as well, which keeps the same even timbre and same level of projection. This makes her accomplish her duet with Tonio with dramatism, despair, and strength. She portrays a determined and strong woman who fights for her dreams, defends violently against Tonio’s rapacious impulses, and tries to save her life in the final scene.