REVIEW: Cav & Pag (NZ Opera)

NBR NZ Opera Cav & Pag
Cav & Pag. Photo credit Neil Mackenzie

Double dose delights [by Sharu Delilkan]

NBR NZ Opera Cav & Pag
Cav & Pag. Photo credit Neil Mackenzie

You can’t go wrong with two for the price of one.

But when both the products are not just great value but great quality, you know you’ve struck gold.

In this case watching two separate but cleverly intertwined operas, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci more commonly referred to as Cav/Pag, is not just value for money but a great night filled with drama and intrigue.  A show definitely worth traipsing into town for, even amidst all the Rugby World Cup malarkey.

So I think by now you would have gathered that I really enjoyed the latest production of the NBR New Zealand Opera.

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, under the baton of Oliver von Dohnányi, entertains from the get go.  I was pleased to see my sentiment echoed by a couple of elderly women seated on my right, who were swaying to the music even before the curtains went up.  What better proof could you get that the orchestra’s performance was a perfect complement to the amazing voices on display?

Although no authority on opera, I must admit that both Anna Shafajinskaia’s (Santuzza in Cav) and Marcin Bronikowski’s (Alfio/Silvio in Cav/Pag) emotionally charged performances moved me.

However from a theatrical point of view I wasn’t convinced by the dynamic between Turridu (Peter Auty) and Lola (Anna Pierard) in the first opera, Cav.  The intimate scene at the beginning of the show appeared somewhat perfunctory lacking the passion that goes hand in hand with a sordid affair.

John Parker’s theatrical set worked really well and is cleverly juxtaposed against the visual spectacle of Elizabeth Whiting’s equally original and dramatic costumes.  While the KKK-like hooded red robes were obviously chosen for its historical context and they added to the theatricality of the Easter procession in Cav, I couldn’t help detecting an air of discomfort when they appeared on stage.   On the other end of the spectrum, adding to the comic relief of the play within the play in Pag, I loved the tongue-in-cheek black and white palette that ran through Nedda’s (Elizabeth Futral) and Beppe’s (Andrew Glover) threads as well as the two dimensional props.

The double dose of infidelity, revenge and murder, which are part of the raw, realistic style known as verismo (truthfulness), works a treat with the audience, making the intriguing world of opera all the more accessible.  The brevity of each of the pieces along with the recognisable themes makes Cav and Pag the perfect opera for first time operagoers.  And as I overheard an audience member say when we were leaving the Aotea Centre “that’s something that would really go down well with the blokes.”

The large Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus, comprising a good cross section of ethnicities and ages that mirrored the diverse cultural background of Auckland’s unique population, was not only powerfully pitch perfect but provided great colour to both the operas.

I could go on but then I’d be giving too much away.

I suggest you don’t take my word for it, come see it for yourself.

NBR New Zealand Opera presents Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci that plays at the Aotea Centre, THE EDGE until 25 Sept.  For more information see The Edge.

1 Comment on REVIEW: Cav & Pag (NZ Opera)

  1. i loved the show it was spectacular and really well played it was great and im from the USA and it was my first time in NZ and my first time watching opera i loved the show and it was a great time in NZ

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