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'Verismo' Italian Operas staged in Beijing

CCTV.com

08-16-2014 01:17 BJT

Chinese opera-lovers got their first real taste of Italian "Verismo" opera on Wednesday. Two works from the Post-Romantic "realist" tradition were performed back to back at the capital's National Center for Performing Arts. Over a hundred years ago, Verismo operas brought the more "gritty" side of life to the stage, following the lush and opulent traditions of 19th century Romanticism.

Two important pieces from a lesser-known Italian tradition, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, both presented at the NCPA on Wednesday night, to a full house.

Well over a century since they were first performed, both operas have become recognized as central pillars of the Verismo tradition... a movement that sought to reject the indulgence of Romanticism, and face the often sordid realities of daily life.

Two important pieces from a lesser-known Italian tradition, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, both presented at the NCPA on Wednesday night, to a full house.

Two important pieces from a lesser-known Italian tradition, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, both presented at the NCPA on Wednesday night, to a full house.

Lithuanian soprano star, Violeta Urmana, plays Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. She explained why the two operas are usually performed together.

"These kind of passion, these kind of lover triangle, are somehow commune to both operas. The periods are also very similar so just from the style it's a perfect match. And sometimes they are doing something else like Cavalleri and ballet but I think this combination works best," Urmana said.

Internationally renowned Chinese baritone, Liu Songhu, plays Silvio in Pagliacci. He says the NCPA's creative team has tried to stick to the original productions.

Two important pieces from a lesser-known Italian tradition, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, both presented at the NCPA on Wednesday night, to a full house.

Two important pieces from a lesser-known Italian tradition, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, both presented at the NCPA on Wednesday night, to a full house.

"I've performed this in Germany before and the production was more modern. This time at the NCPA, it will be more traditional and realistic. The set and design shows an authentic depiction of Sicily. In Germany, the whole thing was interpreted differently, and it was set somewhere else," Liu said.

Liu says the two operas and the genre itself aren't well known in China... so he was worried about how they'd be received.

But the crowds showed up and most seemed to be aware of what they were coming to see.

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