Switzerland Mascagani, Cavalleria Rusticana & Leoncavallo, Pagliacci: Soloists, Chorus of the Grand Théâtre Geneva (Chorus master, Alan Woodbridge), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Alexander Joel (conductor), Geneva, 26.3.2018. (ALL)
Mascagani – Cavalleria rusticana
Santuzza – Oksana Volkova
Turridu – Marcello Giordani
Mamma Lucia –Stefania Toczyska
Alfio – Roman Burdenko
Lola – Melody Louledjian
Design and Costumes – Carmine Maringola
Choreography – Manuella Lo Sicco
Lighting designer – Cristian Zucaro
Leoncavallo – Pagliacci
Nedda – Nino Machaidze
Canio – Diego Torre
Tonio – Roman Burdenko
Silvio – Mark Stone
Director – Serena Sinigaglia
Design– Maria Spazzi
Costumes – Carla Tetti
Lighting designer – Claudio de Pace
In this time of female empowerment, Geneva’s Grand Théâtre had the innovative idea to ask two female directors to stage the beloved Mascagni – Leoncavallo Italian double bill.
Each of them had different styles and ideas. Emma Dante focused on symbols. Her sets and costumes were simple and spartan. Nearly everybody wore black except for a few characters and in particular the Virgin Mary following a cross-carrying Christ. At the end, she returns and gives Mamma Lucia the same blue shawl she is carrying, this establishing a parallel between both losing their child. Serena Sinigaglia’s strengths were in psychology and character development. The scene opened with the stage unprepared and Tonio sang the Prologue while the sets went up. This is a lively ‘Brechtian’ moment that worked well with the words. The duo between Nedda and Silvio had genuine fire and the comedia dell’arte performance was dramatically chilling. In each work, women are dramatic figures: Santuzza, Mamma Lucia and Nedda are sacrificed in the name of honour and jealousy in male-dominated world.
Both works are fairly heavily orchestrated and stretched the acoustics of the small-sized Théâtre des Nations. There were moments when the orchestra, and in particular the brass section, was rather loud, but on the whole Alexander Joel’s confident conducting gave an italianate reading of the score. The chorus was finely nuanced and remains a strong and reliable asset of the Grand Théâtre.
Singing was uneven. Both tenor parts are notoriously tricky. Marcello Giordani still has some fine ringing high notes, but the remaining tessitura lacks body and projection. As Santuzza, Oksana Volkova has some beautiful low notes, but the higher ones are stretched, and she could do more with the words. Veteran Stefania Toczyska was full of presence and authority. This was an inspired choice of casting.
Roman Burdenko, who lent his voice to both works, had appropriate swagger as Alfio but was even more convincing as an elegant Tonio. Diego Torre’s Canio has strong potential with a strong ‘Vesti la giubba’ although he could work on his phrasing. Mark Stone’s warm tones made for a convincing Silvio. Best of all was Nino Machaidze, who sang Mimì in the same theatre last season. The Georgian soprano produces superbly coloured notes across the full tessitura. She brought charm to her lovely aria but was aptly more dramatic when tension was required.