Before I say anything about the production, let me say a few deservedly kind words about the staff at the Wales Millennium Centre. Always prompt to reply to calls and emails, always delightful at the counter; and on this occasion, exceptionally welcoming, generous and professional. A special thanks for the glass of water at the bar and the seat at the back on my return after a sharp exit in the first half. Note to self: keep cough sweets in handbag.
All production photographs credit Bill Cooper
Now, it is an interesting thing to change seats during a production. One minute I am gazing directly at centre stage and the next, I am at the back, looking side on. We forget how staging has accommodated us over the years and a 1970s repro set is a thing of beauty from the front; a thing of inconvenience from the side.
However, it is always a lovely thing. An old Victorian Christmas card has come to life in all its grandeur and its pathos. All bonnets and bayonets, Cavalleria rusticana is a comforting production. Camilla Roberts is cripplingly and sweetly intense, David Kempster is healthily robust and Gwyn Hughes Jones sturdily in control throughout.
It is dense and fat and fulsome – a wealthy work, confidently wrought.
Pagliacci is cloaked in the familiar faded colours but we are now in the 1940s, just a touring car for clowns and a troupe of singers keep us watching, listening.
A very funny cavalier play within a play becomes a tragedy within a tragedy; and we love it all. Meeta Raval is hot opera – sexy, winsome and hopeful, a tricky character well-played and so beautifully sung. Kempster and Hughes Jones give us opera on a plate – they sing a rich dish of verse and music designed to entertain and please as only the Italians can. It is superb.
It is a production reminiscent of a period of flares and strikes but contemporary in its slick direction; popular pieces deserving of the magic touch of the Welsh National Opera.
Opera, Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci
Wales Millennium Centre
Mascagni & Leoncavallo
Welsh National Opera
Conductor Carlo Rizzi
Director Elijah Moshinsky
Designer Michael Yeargan
Lighting Designer Howard Harrison
Seen: 7.15pm, 26th May, 2016
Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running: Birmingham Hippodrome 9 Jun – 11 Jun
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 26 May – 4 Jun
Cavalleria rusticana cast
Turiddu Gwyn Hughes Jones
Alfio David Kempster
Santuzza Camilla Roberts
Mamma Lucia Anne-Marie Owens
Lola Rebecca Afonwy-Jones
Pagliacci cast Canio Gwyn Hughes Jones
Tonio David Kempster
Nedda Meeta Raval
Silvio Gyula Nagy
Beppe Trystan Llŷr Griffiths