Cav and Pag review from the Cornishman

Frank Ruhrmund wrote for The Cornishman:

FULL marks to Minack manager Philip Jackson - who must know something about the weather that we don’t know - for deciding to go ahead with Monday’s performance. Amazingly, against all odds, on a night which bore a closer resemblance to January than July, it did not rain.

All credit also to Surrey Opera for having the courage of Philip Jackson’s convictions and for bringing on the company’s first visit to the Minack, Calabria to Cornwall so convincingly in the double bill “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci”.

Known in the business as “Cav and Pag”, neither Pietro Mascagni’s vignette of village life, nor Ruggero Leoncavallo’s tale of travelling players, with its play within a play, is a bundle of laughs. On the contrary, concerned as they both are with human frailties, with sinning as much as singing; love, lust and misplaced loyalties; duplicity and disaster; murder and mayhem; revenge and rustic chivalry, they could hardly me more moving - the very stuff of grand opera.

Directed and conducted by Jonathan Butcher, the production captures the Catholic claustrophobic feel of 19th century Calabria well, and is a considerable debut.

First-rate singing and acting from the principals; strong support from a disciplined, not to say devoted, chorus; and an orchestra which positively thunders at times but is always tuneful; apart from a crumbling church facade which causes more trouble than it is worth and should be consigned to the Minack zawn forthwith, the whole thing is as good to listen to as it is to look at.

From Turiddu’s opening aria serenading his former love, his neighbour’s wife Lola, in “Cav”, to Canio/Pagliacco’s acceptance that, even though his heart is breaking, the show must go on, and the final pronouncement, one of the great lines in opera, “The comedy is ended”, in “Pag”, not forgetting the Easter Hymn in the former, Surrey Opera comes up with, as the “commedia dell’arte” player Pagliacco promises, “Un grande spettàcolo” - A show to remember!