Cavalleria rusticana is one of the few titles that can ensure the audience attendances over the world, even irrespective of any specific performer, for its expressivity, melodiousness and symphonic complexity. The opera premièred in 1890 and is considered the first example of Italian verismo melodrama, drawing upon the culture and tradition of a nation, both musically and literarily.

In the libretto, the action takes place on an Easter Sunday in a village in eastern Sicily, where the scene should show a church to the left side and the Mamma Lucia’s tavern to the right, with the highlights during the opera being the procession and the Mass. Breaking with convention, the set designer Sergio Tramonti shows us a closed, claustrophobic space where doors all around open to let in, from time to time, bursts of light, the drama characters, the chorus, and the director himself, omnipresent on stage.

<i>Cavalleria rusticana</i> © GBOpera
Cavalleria rusticana
© GBOpera

“Sorry for my meddling. I am the director of this opera.” Before the curtain opens, in a prologue to the prologue, Delbono shows up and addresses the audience telling two episodes of his private life, related to Easter.

This intense and solemn Cavalleria, cheered by critics and audiences in 2012, is back to San Carlo for the 2014 Opera Festival. This staging of Mascagni’s opera once again proved more than satisfactory. Delbono’s direction abandons any realism, even in the supposedly crowded scenes like the procession, in which Bobò, a dumb and deaf microcephalica Delbono uses in all his stagings, features, like a doppelgänger, carrying the cross all alone on the stage.

The direction wants us to look at life from the perspective of the last, who will never be first on this earth. From the beginning, like a phantom hovering over the stage, a blood-spattered drama lurks in the air.

The single room set is rather monochrome, as red as blood, or as hell itself, where the story takes form and falls down to the out-of- stage rustic duel.

The most appreciated and applauded of all cast of singers was the Neapolitan rising star soprano Anna Pirozzi (Santuzza), who, visibly excited, debuted in her hometown in front of her public. With her vocal extension, her rounded sound and brownish vocal colours, she effortlessly created the image of a passionate young woman in love, hurt in her feelings, but enlivened by sensuality and impulse that give her the strength to oppose to the frivolous Lola. She has all the qualities to become soon an operatic first lady, also in acting and stage art, as she responded with professionalism even to the most unusual of the director’s choices.

Giovanna Lanza was an elegant-voiced Mamma Lucia, an great authentic mezzo-soprano, who, as is customary for her, delivered a performance which was exemplary for intelligence and emotional involvement, without any excesses.

A real revelation was the tenor Rafael Davila as Turiddu; with a full and strong voice and a powerful and expressive sound. Angelo Veccia was a convincing Alfio: as a baritone, he possesses a considerable extension, and even in the most difficult passages he arrives to the public with lyrical intensity. Asude Karayauz in the role of Lola the seductress, proved convincing with her sensual voice and swift acting.

The conducting of Jordi Bernácer was very balanced and intelligent: he did a fine job as he showed his great feeling for the music, being able to fine-tune the orchestra and singers of diverse vocal qualities. The most remarkable pages included the best known music of this one-act opera – the Intermezzo and the orchestral interlude which leads into the final tragedy. 

The Chorus of the Teatro di San Carlo, directed by Salvatore Caputo, sang and acted well, balancing the sounds and taking care of diction for the sake of intelligibility. Also the Orchestra was in good shape, with the usual excellence of the string section. They were at their best, responding to every request made by the conductor and producing some great sounds throughout the score.