Pagliacci – Review – Leeds Grand

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Pagliacci review leeds grand theatre

Pagliacci – Review

Leeds Grand, September 2017

by Sandra Callard

Under the umbrella of Opera North’s new enterprise of The Little Greats, whereby two short operas are performed on the same night, one of their operas is the famed Pagliacci (‘Clowns’) by Ruggero Leoncavallo, possibly the only well-known opera he produced, and also one of the shortest operas written.

The plot of Pagliacci is one which is often performed in drama, being that of a play within a play, although in this Pagliacci reality takes over from the story in a quite spectacular and stunning way.

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“Shivers”

The story revolves around the dress rehearsal of a play, the plot of which is set in a circus, with the clown, Pagliacci, as the main player. He discovers his wife is having an adulterous affair with another cast member, and tragedy follows.

Slowly and insidiously the play begins to shadow the real life of the main actors. The confusion and disbelief of the rest of the cast as they watch the action of the show is substantial and convincing, and the chaos that ensues as the truth dawns on them is very believable.

The major role of Canio, is sung by Peter Auty, who plays Pagliacci the clown in the show within a show. His first appearance as a petty and conceited director is distinctly under-whelming, but as the tragedy of his personal life unravels, so his power as a singer and actor steadily increases. He does great justice to Pagliacci‘s eagerly-awaited aria, and his anguish provides the proverbial shivers down the spine.

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“Brave”

His unfaithful wife, Nedda, is outstandingly sung by Elin Pritchard, who sings and acts everyone else off the stage. Her voice is magical and her characterisation of Nedda is superb.

In this Grand Theatre production Opera North has chosen totally modern dress for all of the prolific cast. This works well and adds to the reality of the situation. Richard Burkhard is brilliant as Tonio, the designer of the show, and has more than a touch of Shakespeare’s Iago as he choreographs the vindictive destruction of Nedda.

This is a very competent and brave production of Pagliacci, and the cast do full justice to Leoncavallo’s masterpiece.

Images: Tristram Kenton

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