I Pagliacci: A Classical Opera Hybrid

You can thank this arthouse film for uniting Swift and Antonoff on ‘Midnights’

I’m not much of an opera fan, and I think when it comes to Broadway favorites I prefer to stick with the musicals rather than the classics. The truth is, while I do love a good romantic comedy, and I adore an opera when it’s done right (like those of Rimsky-Korsakov and Bellini), I’ve never really been interested in doing a full-length opera in my life. I’m glad I didn’t have to in the case of the new production of La Scala’s I Pagliacci, co-created by Pulitzer Prize winner Luciano Pavarotti. (It’s scheduled to premiere at La Scala next season, but a few days after this column ran, it was announced that that opera wasn’t part of the opera’s future plans, and they’ll be using this production to help pay the bills of its musicians and the conductor, Claudio Abbado.)

And now let me back up and talk about the production itself, which I’d describe as a classic-opera hybrid. From the opening bars of “La mattina il cielo” (“In the morning the sky was as blue”) until the final curtain call (“Oh, don’t say you’re sorry”), the performance is a series of quick, punchy, clever scenes that are done in a simple, understated manner that never loses sight of its operatic roots. And throughout it all, Pavarotti is at the forefront, doing more than his usual singing-and-speaking parts, as we hear the stories of his life and the inspiration behind his work from his own storyteller’s viewpoint (“Dove andro il cane?”), and we’re reminded that Pavarotti is a man of profound love and dedication to his art.

The cast of La Scala’s I Pagliacci include a very small orchestra, with one real-life musician (the tenor Vincenzo D’Alba) taking center stage from the second act on. His voice is full and rich, as we’re drawn into a lively musical scene in which he�

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