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Cat. No. CHAN 3005(2) Price: £0 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3005 - Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana · Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
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Available From: 21 October 1999
Cavalleria rusticana won first prize in a competition for one-act operas. Its success was immediate and lasting, and Mascagni never again quite achieved the same success he had with this opera. In fact, the spread of its popularity has not been matched by any other opera and – its greatest compliment – it spawned a host of imitations. The concise, passionate tale of Sicilian peasants – struck a chord with audiences, and Mascagni’s simple but effective dramatic devices still pack a punch.

The plot of Pagliacci was broadly based on what Leoncavallo remembered of one of his father’s law cases – a middle-aged actor who murders his unfaithful young wife. Leoncavallo was an accomplished librettist; his scenario is at once credible and swift-moving. The characterisation may not run very deep, but it is convincing enough to make us believe that the characters are real people.

The music is touching, immediately accessible and attractive, tuneful without being tawdry. For his score, Leoncavallo took as much as he needed from Wagnerian methods. There is rudimentary use of leitmotiv, and neither the harmony nor the orchestration could have been as it is had Wagner not existed. However, the score is recognisably Italian in flavour, and the various set-pieces are fully integrated into the structure in the manner of late Verdi.

Chandos continues its admirable Opera in English series with a suitably earthy account of Mascagni’s raw tale of love, jealousy and death in a Sicilian village.
BBC Music Magazine

The performance works well… I commend it to anyone who wants to hear Pagliacci in English
American Record Guide


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