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Leoncavallo: Pagliacci / Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana
Leoncavallo Pagliacci / Mascagni Cavalleria Rusticana
Actors: Joh Vickers, Raina Kabaivanska, Rolando Panerai, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gianfranco Cecchele
Director: Herbert von Karajan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     1hr 19min

Opera's most popular double bill, fondly known as Cav and Pag, can be a tawdry mess or, as in this performance of Pagliacci, a searing experience. Its power derives from an all-star cast headed by tenor Jon Vickers in the ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Joh Vickers, Raina Kabaivanska, Rolando Panerai, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gianfranco Cecchele
Director: Herbert von Karajan
Creators: Ruggero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/11/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 19min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Italian
Subtitles: English, German, Italian, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Stellar Recordings of Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana
Charles Beck | Framingham State College, MA | 09/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)


These are two outstanding and spellbinding performances from the Italian repertory. Each of the major characters possesses the vocal and dramatic skills to capture the strong and violent emotions associated with verismo opera. The outstanding camera work, especially the close-ups, produce an intimacy and pathos that have a mesmerizing impact on the viewer. Both La Scala productions were filmed in Milan under the technical mastery of Herbert von Karajan.

In Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Fiorenza Cossotto delivers a deeply sympathetic portrayal of the aggrieved and betrayed Santuzza. It's easy to see why she was considered the greatest Italian mezzo-soprano of her time. Gianfranco Cecchele, as the adulterer Turiddu, performs admirably, both vocally and dramatically, and one wonders why he didn't achieve greater recognition in his day. In the role of Alfio, sung by Giangiacomo Guelfi, we see how anger and revenge consume his unsuspecting and gregarious nature. The religious choruses and famous intermezzo provide a temporary relief from the unceasing and escalating tension.

In Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, von Karajan also served as the artistic supervisor, and he demonstrates his fondness and sensitivity for Italian opera. Canio was one of Jon Vickers most celebrated roles. In his rendition of "Vesti la giubba," he depends on his vocal expression and inward anguish to portray his growing rage rather than and outburst of tears. (Incidentally, don't miss his sensitive performance of the disturbed Don Jose, opposite the sensuous Grace Bumbry, in von Karajan's version of Carmen, also filmed in 1968.) Raina Kabaivanska, the Bulgarian soprano, combines her strong vocal and acting skills to portray Nedda. In the enclosed notes of Richard Osborne, her comedy play scene blends "poise and barely suppressed panic." Peter Glossop, without the reserve often associated with British singers, offers a lively performance as the deformed and revengeful Tonio. He introduces the famous prologue by holding up a Kabuki-style emotionless white mask. After Nedda whips and rejects him, his face becomes distorted with anger and humiliation.

In addition to the outstanding performances of the main characters in each opera, the Director of Photography, Ernst Wild, and his camera crew deserve to be saluted, especially for their intimate close-ups. For example, in "A voi tutti salute," the viewer can almost taste the wine before Turiddu challenges Alfio to a duel. Even though there productions were filmed 40 years ago, the picture quality is very good and the original stereophonic recording has been converted to surround sound. Even a casual opera listener will find these performances absolutely spellbinding.

Not twins exactly, but still heavenly
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 08/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are often called the heavenly twins, but I don't think that's quite true. I'm not sure if Cavalleria is a great opera, but it's certainly a very good one. True, Mascagni does an admirable job of creating a small town atmosphere where privacy is a rare luxury and religion supersedes almost everything, you can practically feel every cobblestone, every whiff of ocean breeze, every drop of holy water in the music, and the score is filled with beautiful, passionate, dazzling melodies. Still, as far as I'm concerned, the opera never exceeds the sum of its parts. Maybe it's because the opera is ALL about flooding the listener with beautiful, passionate, dazzling music, and this comes at the expense of character development and true drama. It's a shame that Mascagni's masterpiece Iris is so seldom performed, and isn't available on DVD. Still, as I said before, Cavalleria Rusticana is quite good. Pagliacci, on the other hand, is a true masterpiece, one of the great treasures of the operatic repertoire. The opera, with its melodic richness, its orchestral inventiveness, and its solid musical characterizations, manages to transcend the tawdriness of the characters, who spend almost the entire opera hurting one another, to the extent that it qualifies as high art. It may well be the greatest short opera ever written.

This DVD presents a pair of films produced in 1968, featuring stellar casts and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who also directs the film of Pagliacci. The films, like the operas, are good(Cavalleria) and phenomenal(Pagliacci).

The Cavalleria film faces the same central problem as any film of this opera: What to do with all that time devoted to long instrumental passages? Ake Falck, who directs the film, treats these moments like scenes from a movie by Yasujiro Ozu, filling them with shot after static shot of meaningful scenery, from rustic streets to a beautiful and tempestuous shoreline to a towering crucifix. This establishes atmosphere, like the opera the film does a good job of evoking a specific time and place, but it soon grows tiresome, leaving the viewer to concentrate on Mascagni's lovely music, which isn't such a bad thing. The rest of the film is pretty straightforward, like the opera itself, as primitive as the brutal emotions it conveys, with no abstraction whatsoever, no symbolism. The performers carry the film: Fiorenza Cossotto as Santuzza, sympathetic rather than shrewish; Gianfranco Cecchele as Turridu, fiery and handsome(he looks like a cross between Franco Corelli and Roberto Alagna); and Giangiacomo Guelfi as Alfio, the minatory cuckold. This is a fine performance overall, with von Karajan and his orchestra finding just the right moments to elevate the music to a passionate crescendo while easing up and luxuriating in the more passive moments. The film is unspectacular, but it serves as a competent enough overture for the fireworks to come in round two.

With this Pagliacci, von Karajan has produced a fine example of opera on film, his visual technique matching the color, the choreography, the brutal honesty suggested by the music. His use of close-ups illustrates a true affinity for this medium, as does his ability to coax just the right facial expressions from his performers. Speaking of which, the players are ideal. John Vickers has the perfect voice for Canio, with his ability to sing so beautifully but also with venom. Few can match his technique, or his intensity. He percolates with menace almost from the moment he appears onscreen. He is matched in both the singing and acting departments by Raina Kabaivanska, one of von Karajan's favorite sopranos, young and heartbreakingly beautiful here, cold but also passionate, with both the graceful movements and supple voice of a bird in flight. The way she flits so effortlessly onstage during the play within a play makes me wonder if she was a ballerina in a previous life. It's easy to see why a passionate sort with a raging temper might kill for her. Peter Glossop delivers a knockout prologue, and his Tonio eschews any opportunity for sympathy based on the character's deformity, he plays the hunchback as someone who would be every bit as grotesque even in a perfect body, unashamedly off-putting, mean-spirited and soulless, like the other major players in this fine but unsettling drama. Once again, von Karajan and his forces deliver the goods, driving the music forward with all the ardor and madness of the story's characters.

This isn't the only DVD to feature a pair of films of these two operas. The other, also on Deutsche Grammophon, offers the filmmaking talents of Franco Zefferelli, the conducting talents of Georges Pretre, and the vocal talents of Placido Domingo. It, too, is a marvelous DVD, but I give the edge to this one, primarily for its Pagliacci which is nearly perfect.

Instead of twins, perhaps it is better to look at these two operas as siblings, Cavalleria the sturdy and unassertive one that never quite achieves an individuality of voice, impeccable to be sure when viewed on its own, but overshadowed to a degree when presented side by side with its outlandishly talented brother or sister. Or we could dispense with all this pretentious nonsense and simply say, here we have two operas, one good, one great. Enjoy."
Excellent double bill
Paddy Mccabe | 02/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have had this on tape for years, but this new format is much better.Done in surround sound it gives a great presence and of course subtitles are a great help.
In Cavelleria the lip synching is quite good particularly in the case of Cecchele who also acts and sings with great verve.Guelfi's transformation from the benign to the frightenly vengeful Alfio is very convincing.What a phenomenal baritone he possessed.Although mezzos with an extension,and in this case a great one,have essayed Santuzza,I am convinced this is truly a soprano role.However Cossotto copes easily with the role even though it is obvious that the upper register is that of a Mezzo.The minor roles are well done with Adriana Martino as Lola using her sexual attributes to the utmost.
Pagliacci is even better.Peter Glossop is very convincing as the villainous Tonio and his Prologue ranks with the best.I have never liked the voice of Jon Vickers with its strange guttural type sound in the middle,but I accept he was a great tenor, and here, he is a convincing Canio and a frightening one in the final scene.Indeed Raina Kabaivanska looks as if she was actually terrified.She looked beautiful and sang beautifully throughout-her scene with Silvio played by the great Rolando Panerai, being particularly touching.
The sets are very well contrived for both operas and give quite an air of realism.While films can never match the live performance,this DVD would be an ideal introduction for someone anxious to get to know this "Ham and Eggs" of the operatic world."