|Index||5 reviews in total|
"Cavalleria Rusticana" reflects a timeless Sicilian conflict between love and honor, justice and violence. Mascagni's opera also has a conflict: a truly ugly theme with some of the most beautiful music ever written and performed in opera. Zefferelli's production does justice to all sides. It's not staged--instead, it's filmed on location in Sicily, which adds greatly to the power and beauty of the story and performances. Zefferelli is almost the equal of Francis Coppola in his fanatical attention to detail and to quality. The Easter procession, "Ineggiamo il Signore e Risorto," combines a cast of hundreds in late 19th century period costume with some of the most awesome music in opera to create a scene of transcendent power and authenticity--I bet the procession is performed just that way, every year, in the town that Zefferelli filmed (trust him to find it). Placido Domingo is in splendid voice as Turiddu, and Elena Obratszova sings Santuzza in a steely, authoritative soprano. She's supported by the great Fedora Barbieri as Mamma Lucia. This is a peerless, definitive production of a great opera experience that never fails to move me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On this unsurpassed 1982 film version of Mascagni's Cavelleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Italian film director Franco Zefferelli whisks away to turn of the century Italy and brings the verisimo opera to breathtaking reality through the art of cinema. By the 1980's, Zefferelli was an accomplished director and he would continue to direct great films in the 90's (Hamlet with Mel Gibson, Tea With Mussolini with Cher). He had contracted his favorite tenor Placido Domingo to star in various film adaptations of opera. Placido Domingo appears as Turiddu, the lusty, aggressively masculine, hot-blooded Sicilian who betrays his wife for the wife another. He is in terrific vocal shape and he is allowed enough time to act and live his role (Domingo was a physically active singer and was never the kind who just stood there and sung like Pavarotti). Domingo outshone all the tenors of his time, proving time and again how he was the true heir to Enrico Caruso's legacy. Here, we get to see his excellent verisimo style and it helps that he is handsome and that his surroundings are real and not an operatic stage. While many object to Zefferelli's custom of cutting a lengthy opera for movie time (2 hours) here he does not do so with the score to Cavalleria because it is possibly the shortest opera ever made along with Pagliacci. Filmed in the Sicilian countryside, these locales were familiar to the native Italian Zefferelli. The Russian mezzo Elena Obrazstsova is Santuzza, and hers is a stunningly dramatic and moving performance. She is an older, mature Santuzza, middle-aged when compared to the elderly Mamma, and her mezzo voice is dark, deep and anguished. She can hit the high notes without difficulty and without grating vibrato. I don't favor a mezzo soprano in the role of Santuzza. If I had it my way, Santuzza should always be sung by a lyrico-spinto soprano, whose angelic voice would make her situation as the betrayed wife is even more touching. Obraztsova is not an attractive woman. She's big and her dramatic, big, almost manly voice does nothing to inspire pathos. I would prefer that the role of Lola (sung by soprano Miss Galle in this film) be sung by a mezzo, for mezzos have traditionally enjoyed the reputation as the temptress. Lola (the perfect name for an immoral woman is played very well by Miss Galle and sung well. In the role of Mamma is veteran soprano Fedora Barbieri, with supreme vocal tone. Even if she is the stereotypical Italian mamma, I love her performance. The setting is an authentic Italian country village, and local color is everywhere, from the clothing, homes and even the Church scenes and Easter procession. A very cinematically dramatic moment comes at the end when a woman runs screaming "They've killed Turrido!" It's clear that Zefferelli attempts a seduction through cinema and watching this as your first opera should inevitably entice you to attend a live opera. Cavalleria contains beautiful music (the Intermezzo enjoys success as an individual piece of classical music) but its theme is as gritty and graphic as real life. While I still find this opera to be more like a soap-opera in its subject matter of adultery in a small Sicilian town, red-hot passions and a death at the end) it is still a moving work and if the right singers do their roles justice, one gets a real satisfaction from all this. Kudos to Zefferelli, Domingo, Obrazstova, Barbieri and of course Mascagni himself.
This is my absolute favourite filmed version of Cavalleria Rusticana.
It is beautiful, very moving(especially the Intermezzo and "Mama Quel
Vino Generoso") and wonderfully performed by all. The story I am
starting to appreciate, I used to think it was weak compared the story
of Pagliacci, but I don't anymore, it is a simple one yet with great
themes and conflict.
I can sing so much praise about Mascagni's music. It is just amazing from start to finish. The most famous bits are the Easter Hymn, the Intermezzo and "Mama Quel Vino Generoso", and rightfully so, but that is not to dismiss the beautiful opening chorus, the drinking song and the powerful scene where a hurt Santuzza tells Alfio of Turridu and Lola, they are on par musically and melodically as far as I am concerned.
Of the film itself, it looks stunning, although Zeffirelli's films are all visually stunning his version of Cavalleria Rusticana is up there with his most visually beautiful. The photography is sweeping, while the scenery is breathtaking. Zeffirelli himself also does an impeccable job directing. The acting and singing is also superb. Placido Domingo is a handsome and wonderful Turridu, Axele Gall is a good Lola and Renato Bruson impresses as Alfio especially in his scene with Santuzza. The real stars though are Yelena Obratszova, who is a very impassioned and moving Santuzza with very impressive voice projection and Fedora Barbieri, who won me over in her acting, she is particularly poignant in her scene after the Easter Hymn.
Overall, a truly beautiful and moving film of a great opera. 10/10 Bethany Cox
Cavalleria Rusticana (1982) was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It's not
a filmed opera--it's a movie made in a Sicilian village, which is true
to the opera that we see in an opera house.
Cavalleria Rusticana ("Rustic Chivalry") was composed by Pietro Mascagni. The Wikipedia entry on this composer says it all: "His 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria rusticana caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music." Verismo opera isn't about kings and courtiers, or about great historical figures. It's about real people in real-life situations.
In this opera, the verismo subject is adultery. Not only adultery however, but adultery, seduction, and abandonment. If you don't know the opera, I'll give a brief summary. If you know opera, just skip this part.
Santuzza (sung by Yelena Obraztsova) is a young woman who is in love with Turiddu (Plácido Domingo). However, Turiddu has seduced and abandoned her. He is now having an adulterous affair with Lola (Axelle Gall). Lola's husband, Alfio (Renato Bruson), is a wagoner, so he's away for long periods, and is unaware of his wife's infidelity. It's interesting that Lola and Alfio have relatively small roles compared to Santuzza and Turiddu. In fact, Santuzza is one of the great mezzo-soprano roles in opera, although it is sometimes sung by sopranos as well. The rest of the action stems from this situation--a woman scorned, a husband betrayed.
Zefirelli is a genius. He filmed Cavalleria in a Sicilian village, and the village comes alive. You have to keep telling yourself that this is a Sicilian village that's populated by actors, not a Sicilian village celebrating Easter Sunday in 1890. (In fact, the Easter procession has a documentary quality to it. It's brilliant and profoundly moving.)
Naturally, the opera was not recorded in Sicily. It was recorded at La Scala Opera House in Milan. I'm not even sure that the "villagers" are actually the chorus members of La Scala, or whether they are local actors who are lip-synching.
However, the principal singers play themselves. Yelena Obraztsova was one of the great mezzo-sopranos of the 20th Century. She was known for her good acting as well as her singing. Obraztsova was made for the role of Santuzza, and Zefirelli brings out the best in her. And, of course, Domingo was one of the great tenors of the 20th Century, so the film has star-quality singing.
It will be a pleasure for you to watch this film, even if you don't particularly care for opera. If you love opera, you'll love Zeffirelli's version of Cavalleria. Don't miss it.
This is a movie that would work better on a large screen. However, we saw it on DVD, where it was still wonderful. It's packaged with another one-act opera--Pagliacci. These two operas are typically shown together in opera houses as well. Opera lovers call them "Cav and Pag." Usually they are shown with Cavalleria first, followed by Pagliacci. That's the order in which I would watch them if you are going to see them on DVD.
In the learning process, for a singer, one should try to see or hear
anything that has been done on tape or video regarding a role you are
learning. You should see it once and then throw out the video so that
you don't do an impression of the performance you are seeing, but I
digress. Upon seeing a scene in Cav, I was thrown back in my chair. The
director was sitting next to me and she axed(sic) what I had seen.
What I had seen was Domingo giving the most vile gesture a man can do to another man and he gave it to his woman. It was stunning. We used that gesture and to heighten the effect, my Santuzza was pregnant and I had to do that vile gesture to her every performance.
It is a little thing that professionals throw in that often times the audience is not aware of nor should they be. It is simply a moment that rings true, as good art always should.
Was the film great, no. There were flaws that come from choices and then again my review will be flawed for the same reasons.
I recommend it highly and hope you get to read this if you are starting out in the business.
All the best.
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