By coincidence, my weekend was choc-full of unrequited love, betrayal, passionate revenge, and romantic tragedy. Happy Valentine’s Day!
It began with my reading (nearly in one sitting) of Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton’s classic tale of snow-bound, star-crossed tragic love. Otherwise known as happy times in New England. Or, let’s go sledding! (Review to come.)
Saturday I attended the opening night performance of Lyric Opera’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. Known in opera circles as “Cav/Pag,” these two one-act Italian operas were the perfect anecdote to a sappy Valentine’s Day. No sailing off into the sunset happy endings here. Betrayal, adultery, despair, madness, and a few rounds of deadly knife play. True love.
The staging is the same that I’d seen a number of years ago, but still well worth seeing again. Guang Yang, as Santuzza in Cav was wonderful and the music was beautiful. Set in 19th-century Calabria, the sets and costumes were wonderful, with kids and chorus members aplenty, giving the audience much to see and hear.
This production of Pag is given an effective post-war Italian update. The action centers around a group of traveling players, complete with stilt-walkers, clowns and jugglers so there’s lots of fun stage business going on. Mark Delavan was good in his double bill as Alfio in the first and Tonio in the second opera, and Vladimir Galouzine as Canio had the audience with his famous aria, containing perhaps the most well known two lines in opera history. (It comes at about the two minute mark in this clip.) It was funny to note as well, when so many death scenes in opera go on and on and on, the deaths that conclude each of these one-acts come right at the end, barely before the final curtain hits the floor. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
To round out my Valentine weekend, I started reading Birchwood, a remarkable Gothic Irish novella by John Banville. Riveting prose and about as romantic as Mr. Rochester’s first marriage.