Mascagni-Cavalleria Rusticana/Leoncavallo-Pagliacci (Lopez Cobos) (2007) (NTSC)

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Released 19-Oct-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Interviews-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 149:50 (Case: 201)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:45)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Angel Luis Ramirez
Opus Arte
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Violeta Urmana
Vincenzo La Scola
Dragana Jugovic
Viorica Cortez
Marco di Felice
Vladimir Galouzine
María Bayo
Carlo Guelfi
Antonio Gandía
Ángel Ódena
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual
RPI $89.95 Music Pietro Mascagni
Ruggero Leoncavallo

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian dts 5.0 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci have been paired together almost since they were written. The former was premiered in 1890 and the latter in 1892, and they were first performed as a pair in 1893.

    The reason for their intertwined history has as much to do with their running times as well as their similar plots. Both run about an hour and a quarter and neither has a break, so they can be paired as would two acts of a much longer single work. A night of one of Wagner's mature operas would be half as long again, so this is no test of of an opera-goer's stamina.

    Cavalleria Rusticana (the title translates as Rustic Chivalry) is based on a short story by the verismo writer Giovanni Verga and is set in Sicily. Turiddu has returned from his military service to discover that his fiancée Lola has married Alfio, so he takes up with Santuzza, who is now pregnant by him. This provokes Lola to jealousy and so she has an affair with Turiddu. Meanwhile the unhappy Santuzza has been excommunicated because of her pregnancy out of wedlock. Now, all this happens before the opera begins. We learn about these events through the various dialogues between characters. Later, after confronting Turiddu with his unfaithfulness, he rejects her, and Santuzza curses him. She then proceeds to tell Alfio of the affair, with the usual tragic consequences.

    Pagliacci (Clowns) has a libretto by the composer and is set in a travelling comedy troupe led by Canio. His wife Nedda is having an affair with Silvio behind his back. Canio is an extremely jealous man and when Nedda rejects the troupes Fool, Tonio, he swears to revenge himself. As Canio and Nedda enact the tale of Colombina and her jealous husband Pagliaccio before the villagers, things take a tragic course.

    Both composers have been pegged as one-work wonders. This is slightly unfair in the case of Pietro Mascagni. Cavalleria was his first opera and although he wrote 15 more, it has remained his most popular. However, L'Amico Fritz is often performed, and based on the one recording of Iris I have heard, it could be claimed to be an unjustly neglected masterpiece.

    Ruggero Leoncavallo had considerably less success than his contemporary, and of his several operas and operettas little is heard today. His only significant continuing success after Pagliacci was a song called Mattinata, which has been regularly recorded since Caruso's time.

    Leoncavallo however did have a lasting success with Pagliacci, and there are thousands of composers who would have dreamed of a single success like it. The famous aria Vesti la Giubba has been recorded by innumerable tenors, and its recording by Caruso was the first disc to sell one million copies.

    Aside from being enjoyable in and of themselves, these operas are also important, as they are the first major works of the verismo movement, where the subject matter of opera is taken from the lives of contemporary working class people, and no attempt to impose meaning on the work is made. Verismo gains its power from the passionate expression of emotions which are heightened by the dramatic context and the style of the music. Versimo began as a movement in Italian literature somewhat opposed to the French Naturalist school, but is today primarily associated with the operas that were influenced by it. Cavalleria Rusticana is generally acknowledged as the first verismo opera.

    These two performances are more intertwined than is usual. The director Giancarlo del Monaco (son of the famous – and famously loud – tenor Mario del Monaco) has designed a production which begins with the prelude from Pagliacci, then continues with Cavalleria followed by the remainder of Leoncavallo's work. While this is not the way the composers intended, it works reasonably well, or at least does not adversely affect the impact of either work. del Monaco rightly sees the prelude as a manifesto for realism, so it applies equally well to both operas.

    There is no restaurant or church in Cavalleria, the set being a series of white marble blocks intended to evoke the sun-bleached interior of Sicily. The costumes are suggestive of the era in which the opera is set. Pagliacci on the other hand is updated to around 1960, judging by the three large images of Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi Fountain from La Dolce Vita. The allusion to Fellini is probably inspired by La Strada, which has a similar story. The troupe's wagon is now a truck.

    Both stagings work quite well because the action still reflects the text of the works. Cavalleria is a much more overtly tuneful work, and can be overwhelming when done in a certain way (Karajan's 1965 recording makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it). Unfortunately the high points of the music seem a little rushed, especially the famous Intermezzo. Pagliacci is a different matter. Although the tenor Vladimir Galouzine as Canio has a voice which is a little dark and baritonal, his acting is excellent, as is that of the rest of the cast, and the conducting by Jesús López Coboz is much improved from the first opera.

    This particular staging of these two popular one-acters may not be entirely authentic, but it works well. It is also refreshing to see any operas these days performed straight. Both are dramatically satisfying and there is little to break the spell, particularly in Pagliacci.

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Transfer Quality


    I watched this NTSC video upscaled to 1280x720p. The aspect ratio of this 16x9 enhanced video is 1.78:1, which appears to be the format for which it was composed.

    The video is quite good with not too many issues to report. There is a reasonable amount of detail visible. Cavalleria has a design that is either bright white (the sets) or black (the costumes), and both look realistic. Pagliacci has more variety in colour but the lighting makes the colours look muted. Flesh tones vary from pink to brown depending on whether the faces are in shadow or light.

    There are some video artefacts to report. In Cavalleria there is edge enhancement which is noticeable because of the white backgrounds, and in the wider shots the haloes are quite thick. This is less visible in Pagliacci. Also noticeable from time to time is Gibb Effect, and some chroma noise is occasionally apparent in backgrounds.

    The optional subtitles are well done in a clear white text. There was at least one spelling mistake but this was a minor one.

    Both operas are on Disc One, which is RSDL-formatted. The layer break is placed between the two operas but is still noticeable, as it disrupts the applause immediately after Cavalleria.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio options. I listened to the DTS surround track in full and sampled the Dolby Digital stereo track.

    The case seems to indicate that the DTS track is 5.1, but it is in fact 5.0. The orchestra comes across clearly with a lot of detail, the front channels being used to create the image of the players while the rear channels are used for the concert hall acoustic and audience noises. The voices seem somewhat further back in the mix than would be ideal, and the volume needs to be turned up to hear them clearly. This same issue is present on the stereo track.

    The fidelity of the audio otherwise is very good. The Dolby Digital track, though at a considerably lower bitrate, initially sounds almost as good as the DTS track. However it becomes apparent that the sounds are less rich, the bass is less clearly defined and the higher frequency sounds are more strident.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Interviews (48:42)

    The entire second disc is given up to a series of interviews with the director, conductor and four principal singers. Some of these are informative, such as that by del Monaco (16:35) discussing his ideas in staging the works or those by Vincenzo La Scola (Turiddu) (7:13) and María Bayo (Nedda) (7:58) discussing how they approached their roles. The interview with Violetta Urmana (Santuzza) (7:42) is fairly uninteresting, while the one with tenor Vladimir Galouzine (2:30) consists of him looking ill at ease and saying he doesn't understand the actions of his character. There is also an interview with the conductor (6:44). All are in Italian, apart from those with Galouzine and Bayo, which are in Russian and Spanish respectively.


    The booklet has a cast list, track list, an essay about the two operas and very brief synopses, repeated in several languages.

Cast Gallery

    Photos of the principal singers identifying them and their characters, on Disc One.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This release looks to be identical in all regions.


    Good performances of these perennials, with well thought out staging, although some meddling with the originals has taken place.

    The video quality is quite good.

    The audio quality is good but the recorded balance favours the orchestra a little too much.

    Some interview extras were extravagantly put onto a second disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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