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Melodrama in one act
After the sensational success of its 1890 premiere, Mascagni's »Cavalleria rusticana« set off to conquer all the world's greatest stages with a speed not seen before in the history of opera. The emotional appeal of the seemingly folkloric musical language, the lavish melody and the concise dramaturgy of the subject taken from the verismo movement, which depicts love, passion, adultery, jealousy and honour killings in the Sicilian peasant milieu, ensured that this one-act opera has enjoyed unwavering popularity to this day. »Cavalleria rusticana« has also been in the Vienna State Opera’s repertoire for a near-continuous stretch since 1891. In the current performance series, young American tenor Brian Jagde, who has sung on major international stages with his large repertoire for several years, can be seen in his first performances as Turiddu. If Alfio is one of the signature roles of Ambrogio Maestri, which he has sung many times on this stage, Eva-Maria Westbroek will also be making her Viennese role debut as Santuzza. This time, not only the three main roles are prominently cast but the role of Lucia is, too: the great Mara Zampieri returns to the Vienna State Opera to sing her.
Dramma in a prologue & two acts
Inspired by »Cavalleria rusticana«, Leoncavallo created the prototype of a musical verismo work in a mere few months in 1892 with »Pagliacci«: the prologue already lets the audience know that true, unexaggerated life is about to be performed on stage. The legendary Jean-Pierre Ponnelle was involved in two State Opera productions of this impactful tragedy of an acting troupe culminating in a deadly showdown motivated by jealousy: For the premiere in 1959 he created a highly acclaimed stage set and the costumes, and for the 1985 production shown here, which has since advanced to become a classic, he also wore the director’s hat. The plot has been moved to the 1930s and stands out both for its atmospheric detail and for its precise psychological character representations. In the recent past, the artist couple Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak has appeared on the Vienna stage together several times. After performing Otello – Desdemona and Calaf – Liù, they are now seen here singing Canio – Nedda for the first time – an unequal couple marked by a one-sided and possessive love. Ambrogio Maestri, who sings Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana in the first part of the evening, embodies Tonio in Pagliacci, who takes revenge on Nedda and her secret lover after she rejects him.