Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

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COMPOSERS: Leoncavallo
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Leoncavallo
WORKS: Pagliacci
PERFORMER: Domingo, Obraztsova, Bruson, Stratas, Pons/Georges Pretre; dir. Franco Zeffirelli (La Scala, Milan, 1982)
CATALOGUE NO: 070 428-9

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The verismo movement in Italian opera, with its dedication to realism and naturalism, was launched by these two works, and they remain its most characteristic achievements. No wonder that they look so good in the hands of the master realist of Italian cinema, Franco Zeffirelli. A dedicated team of fine singing actors is led by Placido Domingo (Turiddu and Canio), Renato Bruson (Alfio) and Juan Pons (Tonio), with Elena Obraztsova a tortured Santuzza and Teresa Stratas a sensual yet sympathetic Nedda. Filmed largely on location in rural Sicily (the actual setting of Cavalleria), and with Pagliacci harmlessly updated to the inter-war years, both operas strike home with proper emotional force and bags of detail. Even the goats seem to know their cues. Consistently inventive from a visual point of view, of its kind – and it’s surely the right kind for these pieces – this is as good as it gets. George Hall