Cavalleria Rusticana

(Rustic Chivalry)

By Pietro Mascagni

21,22,24,25 June 2005
York Theatre Royal

Mascagni wrote several operas, none of which have achieved the fame of this one. It is in the verismo tradition, and often paired with Pagliacci, which is perhaps not surprising, as Leoncavallo was inspired by seeing Mascagni’s opera to write his own.

On Easter Sunday, in a small Sicilian village, Turiddu, Lola, Santuzza and Alfio discover each other’s betrayals and falsehoods, and in Sicilian fashion, a duel with knives is called for between Turiddu and the cuckolded Alfio. The centerpiece of the opera is the majestic Easter Hymn, sung by the villagers led by Santuzza. But even on such a holy day, death comes to Turiddu. The opera forms the background for the closing scenes of The Godfather Part III, and the famous intermezzo is often played in concert on its own.

Click the thumbnails to see the whole picture.


Santuzza (a peasant girl)

Patricia Casement

Lucia (mother of Turiddu)

Maggie Soper

ALfio (a village teamster)

Jonathan Golding

Turiddu (a soldier, son of Lucia)

Ernesto Correa

Lola (wife of Alfio)

Paula Sides


Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Ian Small


Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper


I Pagliacci

(The Clowns)

By Ruggiero Leoncavallo

21,22,24,25 June 2005
York Theatre Royal

Leoncavallo was determined to surpass the outstanding success of ‘Cavelleria Rusticana’ by writing a work of similar style and proportions. Five months of inspired and concentrated endeavour led to the completion of the words and music of ‘I Pagliacci’. The plot, which exposed the white heat of lust, infidelity, murder and revenge, was based on memories of an actual criminal case of the composer’s father (a police magistrate) in which a middle-aged actor had murdered his unfaithful young wife.

A group of travelling players arrive in the village with a play portraying the troubles of Pagliaccio and the vengeance wreaked on the clown. Canio, head of the troupe, jealously watches his wife, Nedda, with the other members of the troupe and the villagers. He accepts that when he discovers his wife with a lover in the play he lays himself open to a beating – but if, in real life, Nedda were to be unfaithful, then that would be quite a different matter. Tonio overhears Nedda agreeing to meet Silvio after the performance and alerts Canio but Silvio escapes before he can be identified. In the play, fiction replicates real life and Canio discards all pretence of make-believe and stabs Nedda. Silvio attempts to defend her and he too is slain. “The comedy is ended.”


Canio/Pagliacci (head of the troupe)

David Neild

Nedda/Columbine (Canio's wife)

Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs

Tonio/Taddeo (a member of the troupe)

Clive Goodhead

Peppe/Harlequin (a member of the troupe)

Andrew Sapcote

Silvio (a villager)

Ian Thomson-Smith


Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Clive Marshall


Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper



‘Cavelleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci’ – Evening Press, 22nd May 2005

Rustic chivalry and clowns do not sound like inseparable bedfellows. But these two one-acters, Mascagni’s ‘Cavelleria Rusticana’ and Leoncavallo’s ‘I Pagliacci’, have been virtually joined at the hip since they heralded the arrival of “verismo” – real-life opera – in the 1890s. How then could the two halves of York Opera’s new double bill so much resemble chalk and cheese?

First night nerves are part of the reason. Mascagni’s Sicilian shocker is no cake walk. Patricia Casement’s superb Santuzza, however, raised the emotional temperature. From deep inside her role, she poured out the grief heart-rending of a jilted lover with utter conviction. Maggie Soper’s Lucia gave more than a helping-hand. Paula Sides as Lola (the “other” woman) by virtue of taunting smiles and sweet tome, rubbed salt in the wounds. Jonathan Golding’s straight-backed Alfio was not quite the expected tough guy, more the uncomprehending peasant out for revenge.

The tawny stonework of the Mediterranean plaza, designed by John Soper, acquired a little wooden makeshift stage for ‘I Pagliacci’, which was directed by Clive Marshall. Here the nerves seemed to have fallen away. No small reason for this was Clive Goodhead’s Tonio, whose firm, forthright prologue totally allayed any audience misgivings that might have survived the interval. The chorus were now more at ease, less fidgety. The orchestra relaxed into a new stride, undoubtedly buoyed by Brian Kingsley’s agile tuba. In David Neild’s Canio we sensed at once the inner despair of the clown, a vital portrait. But the most riveting singing of the evening came from Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs as Nedda: not merely her full-throated climactic moments but in her complete control, notably at the intimate close of her love-duet with Ian Thomson-Smith’s endearing Silvio.

It is a privilege to have her back in York. A happy evening in the end.

Martin Dreyer


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