The great Italian stage and screen director Franco Zeffirelli made these widely acclaimed films, both starring Plácido Domingo. with Georges Prêtre conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala. Pagliacci, which co-stars the great singing actress Teresa Stratas, brought Zeffirelli the coveted Emmy as Best Director in the category of Classical Music Programming. Cavalleria was filmed on location in Sicily, which adds immeasurably to the power and atmosphere of this timeless story of love, honour, justice, and violence.
Stage Director Giancarlo del Monaco (the son of the famed dramatic tenor, Mario) flat-out rejects the notion that Cavalleria rusticana or Pagliacci should be performed with anything except each other. In an interview included on this Opus Arte Blu-ray release, del Monaco emphatically notes that these operas represent “the fundamental diptych of realist theater;” that they are “two sides of the same coin.” As with many other productions, del Monaco presents Pagliacci ’s Prologue before the Mascagni work, Tonio appearing in the midst of the audience to underscore that the verismo evening ahead is meant to connect to everyone’s real-world experience. A seamless integration of the two dramas is further highlighted when Turridu’s lifeless body is driven off the stage just as the first chords of Pagliacci are sounding.
Plácido Domingo accomplishes the rare feat of singing both lead roles on the same night in opera's most popular double-bill. James Levine conducts the tenor in Franco Zeffirelli's classic production, opposite the superb singing actors Tatiana Troyanos, Teresa Stratas, and Sherrill Milnes.
As comparably short operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are often billed together, but seldom is the lead tenor making his double role debut as Turiddu and Canio on the same evening. At the 2015 Salzburg Easter Festival Jonas Kaufmann did just that – to rapturous praise. Universally hailed as a coup for Kaufmann, plaudits were also showered on Philipp Stölzl for his innovative compartmentalized staging which included live video projections while referencing the era of black-and-white movies.
Cavalleria Rusticana: Magnificently sung, subtly played and dramatically acted… The passion of Sicily, fanned into a bonfire by one of the world's most brilliant conductors and great cast (New York Post).
Pagliacci: An interpretation of exceptionally strong emotions and artistic quality (Il Giorno). Vickers is outstanding, delivering 'Vesti la giubba' with unusual sensitivity and admirable restraint. Kabaivanska and Glossop are also impressive (New York Times).