- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Double duty in Leoncavallo’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Mascagni’s “Pagliacci” has become common at the Metropolitan Opera.

Before this year, the only tenors to sing both “Cav” and “Pag” leads at the same Met performance were Kurt Baum, Placido Domingo, Frederick Jagel, Salvatore Licitra, Ermanno Mauro and Thomas Salignac. Now both Roberto Alagna and Jose Cura have performed the verismo doubleheader in the very same month.

Cura, as heard on Monday night, was far more effective in both roles than Alagna had been at the March 19 opening of the revival, adding sizzle along with heft of voice to a pair of roles that need both.

Alagna, who made his role debut as Turiddu in this run, is more lyric tenor than spinto and his voice strained when full-out singing was required in both roles, That he did well, if not spectacularly, is a testament more to his training and ability than to the size of his voice. But he lacked true squillo, the necessary ringing sound on sustained high notes.

Cura is not ideal but is far closer, with a baritonial timbre but a big bright side. He combined for thrilling duets with mezzo-soprano Ildiko Komlosi (Santuzza) in “Cavalleria” and soprano Nuccia Focile (Nedda) in “Pagliacci.” His “Vesti la giubba” was more penetrating than Alagna’s, although conductor Pietro Rizzo sped up the tempi near the end, clashing with the drama.

Komlosi took over from Waltraud Meier and sang with sharper mezzo determination, but she lacked Meier’s acting ability and flowing passion. Baritone Alberto Mastromarino (Alfio), mezzo Jane Bunnell (Mamma Lucia) and mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson (Lola) were effective constants.

The moonfaced Focile also repeated her impassioned, sweet-voiced account of Nedda and was joined by dashing baritone Vasili Ladyuk, who took over from Christopher Maltman as Silvio. Mastromarino (Tonio) and Tony Stevenson (Beppe) also repeated.

Rizzo, making his Met debut in this run, had another shaky night in the pit, conducting what sounded more like segments than flowing arcs.

Franco Zeffirelli’s 1970 production generally holds up well, but the backdrop for “Cavalleria” looks warped in spots to the point where the Met should refurbish it.


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