Friday, 22 May 2009


When anybody looks at the film career of Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, there is one aspect of his career that is usually overlooked. His is remembered, as a director, for his early films such as THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, ROMEO AND JULIET, BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON and, of course, his famous television JESUS OF NAZARETH but, while these are interesting in their own way, his work as a director of opera films for both big and small screens is largely overlooked by anybody not interested in opera. Here, Zeffirelli turns his attention to the duo of one act opera's known collectively as "Cav & Pag", usually performed together because of their short running times. I just so happens that CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA by Mascagni is my all time favourite opera so I'm both prejudiced in favour of and liable to be very critical of any production (I once walked out of a theatre production which I though was rather tatty) but, Franco does not put a foot wrong. For the most part the the director eschews the theatricality of the opera house and opens the story out for a full dramatic film production made on location in Sicily in the village of Vizzini.. CAV's story tells of ex-soldier Turiddu whose affair with the wife of a local wagon driver is exposed by his ex-lover, Santa. Being Sicily this means blood must flow - indeed, CAV was used as a recurring motif in Francis Coppola's THE GODFATHER PART 3. This is very much the Sicily of THE GODFATHER, all flat caps, earthy peasants, ruined mountain top villages and religious processions. For his singers, Zeffirelli, as one might expect, has the very best with the three main roles sung by Placido Domingo, Yelena Obraztsova and Renato Bruson. In the very important supporting role as Turiddu's mother is the wonderful Fedora Barbieri. With Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI a different tack is taken and, perhaps because of the theatrical theme, Zeffirelli embraces the stage setting at La Scala for his tale of the elderly clown (Domingo in fantastic form) cheated on by his wife (a performance of raw sexuality by Teresa Stratos. The climax when theatre and reality begin to merge with terrifying results is powerful stuff indeed. The singing in both films is, of course, superb. Rating ****


truthpro said...

Absolutely right. You might also view with great pleasure Zeffirelli's "Turandot" with Domingo and Marton from the Met, "La Taviata" and "Otello" both with splendid performances by Domingo.

Weaverman said...

I look forward to them. I've just inherited a huge opera collection (both CD and mint condition vinyl) that once belonged to a recoding engineer who specialised in opera for Decca. There are also many videos of operas and recitals. So much to enjoy! Thanks for the post!