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Passion, murder, betrayal – bravo!
Maritime Concert Opera brings power, discipline to seamy tale of Cavalleria Rusticana
[ Saturday, November 20, 2004]

By STEPHEN PEDERSEN / Arts Reporter / Opera Review

The good news is that chivalry is not quite dead.

Rustic chivalry, at least, flourished last night in the Maritime Concert Opera’s performance of Petro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

It was a good show that cheered up a cool November night. Who could fail to be roused by the glory of an operatic tenor and soprano arguing at the top of their voices with all the passion of Sicilian lovers, she betrayed, he refusing to abandon the wanton woman who turns him on?

The tale is seamy. Turiddu the ex-soldier, driven by his passion for Lola, wife of Alfio the carter, forsakes his bride-to-be, Santuzza, even though she carries his baby and has been excommunicated for her sin. Santuzza, the soprano (Dana Pardy), after being spurned by Turiddu (Lenard Whiting) and mocked by Lola (Nina Scott-Stoddart), spills the beans to Alfio (Jason Parkhill) and it’s goodbye Turiddu.

This all takes place in a quiet little Sicilian village on Easter Sunday. Mascagni, in the thrill-seeking tradition of opera composers, thus loads the dice.

His one-act opera, written in the late 1880s, is as dramatic as The
Godfather and only a tenth as long. His tongue is not in his cheek, but his opera is ironic and sardonic, almost a satire on opera except that he, no more than Puccini, could resist the ultimate musical release of soaring passion.

Whiting responded a little too passionately for his voice at the climax of the opera, but the breaking note only made his emotion more passionate.

The singing was particularly good from all the principals, though you could argue till the crows wake up about personal taste. Dana Pardy, dramatically convincing as Santuzza, had too much metal in her vibrato for my ear.

But Parkhill as Alfio, sporting a huge black beard, sang with even more power and warmth than ever and Scott-Stoddart carried off Lola’s vocal challenges with panache. Lori Proulx as Mama Lucia, Turiddu’s mother, also sang well, and Megan Fischbach as the young peasant girl who gets to scream at the villagers that Turiddu has been killed, hit a convincing note of hysteria.

The chorus, under the direction of James Aulenbach were well-trained and disciplined. There was a burr in their sound that perfectly suited the villagers they were impersonating.

The projected side-titles worked brilliantly, deepening the experience since you understood everything the actors were singing.

Pianist Tara Morton played the orchestral reduction simply and well, and was particularly effective in the famous Intermezzo just before the final scene, one of opera’s prettiest moments.

Bravo, Maritime Concert Opera. Let’s hear more from you.

MCO’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana plays at the Pearl Theatre in Lunenburg tonight.

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Copyright © 2004 The Halifax Herald Limited