Domingo is wonderful, but the production is too ordinary for my tastes
Pagliacci will always be special to me, being the third opera I sang in the chorus for. This Washington production of just a wonderful work is not terrible as such, it's just too ordinary and dare I say it, dull.
I'll get the good things out of the way, and there are several. The music is magnificent, that's the obvious one. Leonard Slatkin's conducting is assured and very musical, and the orchestra are excellent. Of the performances, Manuel Lanza is a delicate Silvio and his duet with Nedda is exquisite and the best thing of the production apart from Domingo's heart-breaking Vesti La Guibba and David Cangelossi a solid Beppe.
Faring best is Placido Domingo as Canio. To me, not only is this brutish yet poignant character one of this great tenor's best roles, but he is one of the definitive singers in the role, on par with Vickers I'd say. Vocally he is excellent, perhaps not quite as burnished as he was in the 1971 recording, 1978 Met production or the Zeffirelli film, it shows great strength and musicality. Even better is his acting, his acting is always so vivid he becomes the character, just look at how terrifying his Non Pagliaccio Non Son is or how poignant his Vesti La Guibba.
Sadly, while the story is dramatic and wonderful, Domingo's performance for me was the only one that showed any signs of conflict. Veronica Villaroel sings Nedda wonderfully particularly in her song to the birds, but I didn't feel the vulnerability, conflict or bitchiness that Kabaivanska or Stratas brought to the role, nor her increasing sense of fright or her cruelty towards Tonio.
Gregory Yurisich I found uninspiring. Not only does he come across as uncharismatic and dull in his acting, so I don't feel any sympathy, amusement or disgust I do watching Gobbi, Glossop or Milnes, but he sounds flat and uncertain at points in the production and that is including the Prologue.
Domingo's Non Pagliaccio Non Son and Vesti La Guibba are tour-De-forces and the duet between Silvio and Nedda exquisite, however the Prologue lacks nuance and pathos, the whole scene with Tonio and Nedda when she mocks him and he loses it lacks any real drama and the play scene was in need of more chemistry between Nedda and Tonio.
The chorus are decent enough vocally, though the staging for their chorus before the play scene was too chaotic, I know it's meant to be chaotic, but the chaos was too extreme for me here.
Another disappointment are the costumes and sets. The backdrops look really drab, and the costumes are rather garish. The picture quality is rather fuzzy too, and such as in the big confrontation before Vesti La Guibba the sound seemed muffled.
In conclusion, wonderful music, Domingo, Slatkin and musical highlights, but as an overall production it was sadly rather dull and ordinary and my least favourite Pagliacci so far. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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