Frank E. (realartist) from HENDERSONVLLE, NC Reviewed on 11/5/2009...
Both of these operas are filmed outdoors, and on set. Both a Franco Zeferelli direction. I owned this opera, and later sold it to buy other versions, other operas. After watching a couple of other productions, and enjoying them...I had ti come ti realize that there is none better than this one. I also had sold my DVD version of Carmen with a young Placido Domingo, and the inimitable, sultry, sexy,bawdy, voluptuous, exuding talent from every porr- glorious contralto Julia Migenes. Absolutely no one has ever come close to her performance as Carmen. Later when I went to buy another copy of Carmen on DVD with Julia...I discovered to my dismay that the DVD version was out of print, and selling for about $100 !....Point being..when you find or hear about an unsurpassed production...buy it while it's still affordable...and don't be so quick to let your copy go. I settled for a good copy of Carmen on VHS...it was done in the early 80's..and had to re-hook up the old VHS player...and well worth the effort.
Pagliacci, if it turns out you don't get out much...is one of the most beloved of all operas. The composer's father was a Judge, and happened to hear a case where the star of a traveling comedy act discovered his spouse in 'flagrante delecti' only moments before the show...and since the 'comedy', ( ahem ) involved a husband finding his spouse being courted by a secret lover...fantasy blobbed over into reality and the clown, Pagliaccio, killed his wife on stage. It was the first 'reality TV so to speak..long before electricity, of course. The new style of opera was called "Verismo"-or story from real life tragedy. The reason it strikes such a deep and resonant chord with everyone, is most of us have lost a 'love of our life' to a rival, or a tawdry affair at one time or another...it is a profound shock...and one that causes people to do all sorts of mad, insane things...women killing their husbands and vice versa. The famous "Aria" from this opera is the one Pagliaccio sings trying to make the transition from shattered, broken hearted, insanely angry person - into a comedian....powerful stuff. There is such gaity and frivolity and joy..contrasted with such heavy, ponderous, danger music, it is fascinating to hear-even if you've never listened to opera. Lots of Hollywood movie music composers study opera...and that is where they get a lot of their ideas for "heavy music".
The other opera paired with this one is just plain gorgeous music..and another ill fated affair that gets discovered. This pair makes a great first introduction ti opera. Anotehr great first introduction to opera is the famous comedy opera, "L'Elisir d'Amore"...or Elixer of Love...tremendously wonderful music and great fun. I recommend the version with Roberto Alagna and Angla Georghiu...who happened to actually be in love as newly weds, and stars of this wonderfully fun, and beautifully staged opera.
Double Delight--Scary, yet Beautiful
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 10/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rarely is it more appropriate to put two works on the same DVD. Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana are two tales of the deadly results of jealousy. In both of these, one spouse is manipulated into murdering the other spouse.
Both are not stage productions but instead are filmed by Franco Zeffirelli, in the incomparable style you would expect of him. The "Tuscan sunset glow" and Italian countryside make this teatro verissmo even more real for us.
Placido Domingo (Canio) and Teresa Stratas (Nedda) give us an unforgettable pair of star-crossed lovers. Their singing and acting are spectacular. Besides what you would expect--that Placido's "Vesti la giubba" is gut-wrenchingly tearful, Zeffirelli has enhanced the production with insightful close-ups such as when Nedda is putting on her make-up, because "the show must go on." It's a ghostly parallel to "Vesti la giubba" as she looks into her mirror, and sees a ghostly white reflection.
Please see this film. Your spine will tingle even more than you already felt when you first heard Enrico Caruso sing "Vesti la giubba." It's a scary yet beautiful, non-stop runaway ride towards disaster."
A strange fateful combination
Robert Baksa | new york state | 01/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a strange combination of short works fated to live together on the operatic stages of the world: one brilliant piece and one hardly above the level of a talented student. Having known these works for better than a half century, I find that "Cav" sounds worse to me as time passes. "Pag" is a brilliant piece of music theater and sounds better all the time. The irony is that neither composer produced anything else of lasting value after these works. Zeffirelli is a great director and film maker and the casts are excellent in all ways. My problem is that I don't like to see films of opera. I like to see the physical effort it takes to sing because that's where you see the real skill of the singers. You can also truly see how the composer, with his sense of musical pacing, understood the theater. The faults of "Cav" can be masked by interesting camera work...in fact the first 15 minutes of this short work has virtually nothing contributing to the drama. And before the final scene the composer throws in a sweet meditation which dilutes whatever tension he created in the previous scene. One wonders if "Cav" would have held the stage as long as it has without "Pag" to lean upon. The second half of the DVD is more impressive since the tension never lets up in Leoncavallo's work. "Pag" also features the ultra charismatic singing actress Stratas and Domingo whose work simply never falls below a level of artistic merit which most singers cannot even approach. Frankly the best "Pag" I ever saw was a live broadcast from the Metropolitan also featuring Stratas and Domingo. During the final scene Domingo took a fall and injured his leg causing cancellation of several subsequent performances. Now that was an electric night! I do not feel that this film, with all its dramatic touches, is up to that broadcast, But it appears to be the best that's currently available. I am aware than many people love "Cav" but I know I will only watch the second half of this DVD."
Pag 5 Cav 1
Red Rivere | Home on the Range | 03/02/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I give this DVD three stars. The Pag is brilliant, the Cav much less so. A big part of the problem with Cav for me is that it is a much inferior opera in my view, but I was not much impressed with this particular production either. On location shots in Sicily are nice, but they actually take me out of the opera. Bruson looks right for the part, but it's a dull part. Domingo looks like a lounge lizard--where were the gold chains (granted Turiddu is a drip)? His ear-biting scene was not dramatically compelling at all, nor was the knife fight. Domingo is far too much the gent, no matter how hard he tries to be sleazy. And poor Santa wandering around in black and falling to the ground gets very tiresome. The grainy film makes it look like it came from the 1920s. This one had me yawning all the way through.
Fortunately PAG makes it all worth it. The staging is wonderful, more realistic looking than many operas, but still not taking us out of the fact that this is the world of an opera. Domingo is alternately saddening and frightening--it's a great performance, particularly in his famous aria. Stratas is unbelievably sexy as well as sympathetic. Pons is very strong too. This one will have you at the edge of your seats. Doesn't hurt that it's a better opera of course! Too bad Pag doesn't get paired up more often with Il Tabarro, a superior opera to Cav."
Joseph Hart | Visalia, CA United States | 02/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rigoletto and these 2 operas are to me the 3 most perfectly structured, compact little (Rigoletto's big) operas I have ever seen. They remind me of Guys and Dolls for their artful precision. In this rendition of these 2 operas, the music never sounded so beautiful. Pagliacci is a brutal character study, well done and disturbing as hell. Little details apt to be overlooked in a stage production (or else invented for the movie) add to the grim reality of the story. Cavaleria wasn't so brutal, but (true verismo) was grim nonetheless. I preferred Cavaleria, but loved them both. They were directed to a gnat's whisker, acted to a fare thee well (unusual though unnecessary for an opera, I think) and I loved them both. Even the chorus members did good jobs acting. I dislike being told what to do, so I won't say buy or watch it. But I for one was enchanted with this DVD. Pagliacci was more a stage show with one set, necessitated by the strictures of the plot. Cavaleria was a whole sung movie with lots of beautiful sets and scenery. Zeffirelli outdid himself. Only one flaw. The picture was poor and grainy. It was worth it"
Just a Novice and I Loved It
Steven R. Marcom | McLean, VA United States | 06/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am not a sophisticated critic, familiar with different recordings and nuances of opera - I just love to listen and watch. What I most loved were Zeffirelli's wonderful landscapes, colors and settings that set off the singing. Placado Domingo, so familiar, just blends into his roles and his superb voice seems effortless. I found the young Stratas so sexy and vulnerable, Wow! ... and Obraztova solid and sour and pitiful, as called for. I could watch it again - that is what counts for me."