Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana
Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni & Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Premiere: October 8th 2020 Slovenian National Opera, Ljubljana
Stage Direction, Set Design & Visual Concept: Manfred Schweigkofler
Costumes: Matea Benedetti
Light Design: Andrej Hajdinjak
Video Design: Illuminata (Christoph Grigoletti)
Choreographie: Lukas Zuschlag
Dramaturgia & Co-Direction: Franz Braun
How do you stage today two operas that are expressions of a very specific time, a very specific place, a very specific worldview? How can the spirit of these operas, which is very specifically anchored locally, chronologically and socially and which no longer exists today, can be transformed into a universal narrative for people in the 3rd millennium?
And how do you tell the people who act in these operas? How do you make them “modern”, their thinking and acting understandable for visitors who come from a completely different environment today?
As an expression of "verismo", both operas belong to a clearly defined musical genre and, in terms of literary history, to a clearly defined period. In naturalism, it is the “little” people who become “heroes” of the opera for the first time, everyday life is meticulously observed and traced. The ambience is a rural, agricultural, far from the city, where rules and laws are not in the books of law (Codice Penale), but are inscribed in the custom and in the traditional logic of the residents. This is the environment of "unwritten laws", here it is assumed that everyone knows "what has to be done" and what is not. They all know the “No Go´s”! In southern Italy the streets are listening, everyone knows everything about everyone, and this tangle of collective knowledge provides a framework for social action. There is a web of moral conventions that form the grid and the frame for the two operas, and here we come across programmatic - almost ritual - social concepts such as onore, vendetta, amore, odio, which are translatable but adopt a completely different connotation today than they did then.
Two ways of staging such operas have never convinced me: firstly, if one obsessively and arbitrarily places these stories in places and times where they have no right to be: madhouse e.g. is very popular with directors, or some Nazi ambience, or an American city office: the problem is here, the story does not open up, is no longer justified, and the audience is frustrated by meaningless actions on stage. Likewise, strictly historical implementation is also forbidden, because then opera will only become a museum; you then marvel at a historical object from a distance, but for us there is no longer any life and therefore it leaves us cold and hardly touches anymore. You can then enjoy the music, but the overall experience is often very boring.
As a stage director, I was always interested in the feelings, moods, motives of the characters on stage that are generally valid and still understandable today. How to manage to get today's audience emotionally involved in these old stories? That's why I work very intensively with the singers on the roles and that's why I also use modern technology that helps me to convert old dust into today's magic. Well, I try….