Komlosi, De Mola, Di Castri; S. K. Park, di Felice; Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro di San Carlo, Zhang. Production: Scaparro. Arthaus Musik 107 331, 78 mins. (opera), 31 mins. (bonus), subtitled
Previously available on TDK, this is an Arthaus Musik reissue of the Cavalleria Rusticana staged by the Teatro di San Carlo in 2007. What was noteworthy about that production was the fact that the company chose to mount it in the ruins of the Roman baths at the port city of Baia, about thirty-five miles from Naples. It was an ambitious undertaking, though on the evidence of this DVD not a terribly successful one.
Both on- and offstage, the talents are second-drawer. Stage director Maurizio Scaparro aims to present a version faithful to Mascagni, the librettists and the Giovanni Verga source material, but he is defeated by the architecture of the baths, which offer a limited set of staging areas on disparate levels. The spatial separation among these does not translate well to video, with too much of the action awkwardly broken up by great distances. Video director Annalisa Buttò cannot really surmount the problem, and agitated editing doesn't help.
In an overstretched thirty-minute accompanying documentary, stage director Scaparro inadvertently makes it clear that he was probably the wrong man for this job when he states that the classical architecture of the baths allowed him to "avoid the verismo trash of other productions." That kind of simplistic hubris hurts any Cav staging and doesn't help his struggling cast.
Ildiko Komlosi's soprano-ish Santuzza is a bit too dignified and restrained. Sung Kyu Park's short, tubby Turiddu is physically dwarfed by her as he sweats his way through the role with bulging eyes, amateur acting and forced tone. As Alfio, Marco di Felice is a blank-faced cipher with a bellowing, over-inflated baritone. Something is clearly wrong when the best thing about a Cav is its comprimarias: Barbara Di Castri brings a sexy presence and rich, voluptuous sound to Lola, and Cinzia De Mola's Mamma Lucia is a spiteful, striking figure spitting out recriminatory chest tones.
The orchestra is set directly in the foreground of the action, almost becoming part of the drama, but this striking visual placement backfires: Teatro di San Carlo's scrappy, poorly coordinated pit band tends to sound like cats on a backyard fence, and young Chinese conductor Zhang Jiemin, though clearly trying hard, finds herself defeated by the verismo idiom. The choral work is of a piece with the orchestra — sloppy on the attacks, wobbly in tone. Many of the choristers look as if they would rather be somewhere else.
With superior Cavs available on DVD, there seems to be little reason to keep this one on the market.
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