When passion kills: Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci at ROH with extraordinary cast

The production of the double bill Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci at Royal Opera House this season is a revival of recently highly praised and Olivier-Award-winning staging by Damiano Michieletto, this time with the extraordinary cast, especially Elīna Garanča as Santuzza and double role debut of Bryan Hymel as Turridu and Canio. The ticket was sourced a long time ago, and promise for a great night of musical theatre was there.

Both operas are staged in the same small village, and intertwining the storyline through reappearing characters – Nedda and Silvio building their relationship in the first part, then Santuzza and Mamma Lucia’s animated conversation during intermezzo in the second part, and this ever-present poster of Pagliacci – provides a uniform foundation and lets us become participants of this passion drama of rural southern Italy. There are no time specific details, while encompassing theme of human nature dominates the story.


The first part of the evening focused on Santuzza’s internal world and desperate situation, all other characters providing backdrop to her torment between love and jealousy.




Photographed by Catherine Ashmore


Elīna Garanča has debuted as Santuzza last year in Paris, and from the interpretation of the main protagonist, I did not see major changes. Though her voice has gained even more confidence, her partnership with Bryan Hymel has more stage chemistry. Turridu here is arrogant, rude, violent, and driven by life destroying passion. He dies for his choices and makes all dear to him to suffer. Bryn Hymel in his interpretation excels at depicting scornfulness and harshness of his protagonist, utilising his rich vocal palette. Mamma Lucia by Elena Zilio was as always dramatically convincing, and thus completed ensemble of extraordinary actors.



Photographed by Catherine Ashmore


Supporting roles of Alfio (Mark S. Doss) and Lola (Martina Belli) were well sung and complemented the core cast brilliantly.



If Bryan Hymel painted his Turridu in the Cavalleria as self-absorbed and arrogant macho, then his Canio provided us with another angle to devastating force of untamed passion – his protagonist here is a sensitive and paranoid lover who easily falls for manipulation and crosses over the border of sanity into an abyss of madness. His vocal palette brings out new colours, and the most captivating aria “Vesti la giubba” was heartbreakingly passionately sung, conveying both pain and torment of the soul. His “No! Pagliaccio non son!” sent shivers down the spine – and led to the expected outcome. My perception was that role of Canio was more comfortable to Hymel, as in comparison his Turridu vocally felt a bit diffident. 


The most surprising discovery was a return of Simon Keenlyside after a relative period of silence, and what return it was! His prologue scene was mini-opera itself, each appearance he made during the whole opera was dramatically charged and vocally impeccably sung. Very happy to see him back in such a splendid form – since his recovery from disastrous damage to the voice he has done in Rigoletto a few years ago, live-streamed, and witnessed by me as well, has taken some time.



Simon Keenlyside in Pagliacci, 2017. Photographed by Catherine Ashmore


Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda delivered sound and well-acted performance, her voice suits very well to the tragic heroine, and her introduction already in the first part – during Cavalleria Rusticana, adds credibility to the story and thus makes it even more lurid.

The ROH orchestra and chorus were significant contributors to the success of the night, the overall cast considerately and energetically led by Daniel Oren.


Performance on December 9th, 2017

Cavalleria Rusticana


Music Pietro Mascagni
Libretto Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci
Director Damiano Michieletto
Set designer Paolo Fantin
Costume designer Carla Teti
Lighting designer Alessandro Carletti


Conductor Daniel Oren
Santuzza Elīna Garanča
Turiddu Bryan Hymel
Mamma Lucia Elena Zilio
Alfio Mark S. Doss
Lola Martina Belli



Music Ruggero Leoncavallo
Libretto Ruggero Leoncavallo
Director Damiano Michieletto
Set designer Paolo Fantin
Costume designer Carla Teti
Lighting designer Alessandro Carletti


Conductor Daniel Oren
Canio Bryan Hymel
Tonio Simon Keenlyside
Nedda Carmen Giannattasio
Silvio Andrzej Filończyk
Beppe Luis Gomes

One thought on “When passion kills: Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci at ROH with extraordinary cast

  1. Nemorino

    I’m glad to hear that the evening was such a success. Elīna Garanča was an ensemble member here in Frankfurt in earlier years. Both Bryan Hymel and Mark S. Doss have also sung here, and Doss even came as a featured guest to one of my opera appreciation classes in English.

    Liked by 1 person

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