The double bill opening Edmonton Opera's season, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci—two operas that together represent a shift toward more real-world explorations in the art form—are often paired together on stages. But rarely do these double-productions share the same cast for each, which is the case here: Richard Margison, in particular has a taxing double-duty in performing both lead roles. That said, he can see some upsides to the pairing.
“I think that they're very powerful together,” Margison says. “Certainly from an artistic standpoint for singers … it gives you a greater chance to explore two different characters and do two verismo operas, which is a tour-de-force in itself.
“At least I only get to die once in these two operas,” he adds.
Sitting beside him in the Jubilee rehearsal hall, director Valerie Kuinka sees her own links between the two.
“These two operas are two of the first great verismo operas—and verismo means truth, true to life,” she says. “A change in style from stories being told about things that are removed from real life. Prior to this time period, at the end of the 19th century, many operas were based on gods and not people.
“Because the music of Cavalleria is lush, its very full, it represents, to me, God,” she continues. “And the action onstage represents people. And there's always, if not a balance, a dichotomy between the two worlds: the world of God—music, the opening the whole overture, is so gorgeous and grand—[but] it doesn't reflect any of the raw elements that are displayed on the stage, and the situations between the characters.”
So the strands of DNA that link the two shows are found in how the two ground themselves in the hapless faults of their protagonists, rather than forces acting beyond human control. In Cavalleria, it's the vengence in Turiddu's heart; in Pagliacci, the jealousy that coats Canio's downfall.
But the production also marks a different sort of pairing: it's been a long time since Kuinka and Margison—a married couple—had the chance to work together. Working on their craft within the same city limits isn't always a luxury affored them, though this year's been a good one.
“We hadn't worked together in over a decade, then we've had three contracts together in a row, which has been nice,” Kuinka says.
“As an artist, you can be on the road for 10 months of the year,” Margison adds. “This way, we get to see each other as well.”
Sat, Oct 22; Tue, Oct 25; Thu, Oct 27 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Valeria Kuinka
Jubilee Auditorium, $35 – $175