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RODERIC DUNNETT raves about Chisinau National Opera's
'Cavalleria Rusticana' and 'Pagliacci'


<< Continued from yesterday

Boris Materinco as Tonio (Taddeo) drums up the crowd before the final scene of 'Pagliacci'

The Chisinau oboes had a magnificent evening -- the gorgeous counterpointing to Lola's love ditty in the last scene of Cavalleria Rusticana, for instance (as also Silvio's aria plus much of the Harlequinade in Pagliacci); so too the viola accompaniment to Lola (Liliana Lavric) after the (here) vivid drinking songs and Alfio's outraged outburst. The opera's close -- there is a danger of a hasty anticlimax -- was as well handled as the start : the girl's offstage cry, her distraught appearance onstage, the dignified pacing of the chorus exit, and a fine final tableau of Santuzza, Mamma Lucia and the girl at the close, beautifully characterised by the orchestra under Nicolae Dohotaru.

If Cav  was a marked success, Pagliacci (The Clowns), with a totally different set of principals, was a triumph. It featured two of the most seasoned male stars of the Chisinau Opera, the Scarpia and Cavaradossi of their recent Tosca.

Mihai Munteanu as Cavaradossi (foreground) with Boris Materinco (rear) as Scarpia and Ludmila Magomedova as Tosca in the Chisnau National Opera production of Puccini's 'Tosca'

Mihai Munteanu, the Canio -- a prizewinner at La Scala in the l970s and former Director General of the Chisinau Opera -- has the ability to spook you almost without trying. The face, an open and closed book at the same time, is fascinating. There was something -- even beyond Leoncavallo's own script, steeped in genius -- which made this Canio's philosophising ('e meglio fingere per riuscire') dangerously, inveterately, almost atavistically evil. His soliloquy 'Put on your costume and your clown's white face', prefaced by viola and double bass musings, was mesmerising. Munteanu's Canio is a character from Chabrol, somehow warming to the challenge, and constantly whetting the knife in anticipation of turning it. His first cameo, to which the orchestra rose splendidly, was awesome. The seething undercurrent issued in ruthless overtones -- not just vengeance, but the pleasure of it : cruelty became an imperative.

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Copyright © 11 February 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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