The set worked beautifully for the opening of Cavalleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascgani), with Lola and Turiddu ending their tryst upstage not seeing Santuzza downstage taking in the whole affair. Kara Shay Thomson as Santuzza has a very strong and expressive soprano voice. Her duets with both Turridu (John Pickle) and Alfio (José Sacin) showed the strength of all three singers who were easily able to be heard above the full orchestra. The flute, harp and horn accompaniments were delicate and beautifully executed.
As I Pagliacci begins, the four actors are on the apron while behind them, the inhabitants of the town freeze in position and are absolutely stock still while Tonio tells them about the show they will see in the evening. Not a hair moved and several players froze with legs in mid-swing and hands raised.
John Pickle was able to be a gentle and fickle lover in Cavalleria and changed to a violently jealous husband in I Pagliacci. His extremely dramatic and strong Pagliaccio non sono was where he gave his most compelling and gripping performance. And perhaps because of the complex texture of the Leoncavallo score to I Pagliacci the orchestra seemed to be more dramatic as well. Mark Ward played several soaring cello solos – especially for Pagliaccio’s forget all else. And the bassoon solos were smooth and haunting.
Susan Nelson as Nedda had the kind of voice and acting that had you glued to her. Her ability to sing the high notes and phrase beautifully were matched by her ability to sing no matter whether she was fighting, jumping or sprawled in her lover’s lap.
The orchestra played such a moving entreacte in I Pagliacci that the audience sighed when the curtain re-opened. But as the play within the play began, the trumpet (Frank Ferraro) solo was just terrific. Rong Tan played harp throughout each opera with intensely melodic phrasing and subtle shading.
This is a great production and well worth seeing. The next performances are Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10.