Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"Cav-Pag," the Siamese twins of Grand Opera, were born and bred to delight the senses, and any production that accomplishes this end is a successful one.
The Metropolitan Opera's performances of these two at Wolf Trap Tuesday touched all bases in this respect, aiding and abetting the most melodramatic intentions of composers Mascagni and Leoncavallo.
In these operas, the singers wear their characterizations like masks. There is no development, just the need to emote beautifully and in character.
Here again the Met production hit the mark. For sheer vocal beauty the "Pag" cast had an edge. Louis Quilico set the tone with his delightful sung prologue, and, throughout, walked a narrow path between pathos and malice. Both Mariana Niculescu and James McCracken lavished more beauty than emotion on their roles, but did it so broadly that it hardly seemed to matter.
Dramatically, however, "Cav" seemed to work better. Tatiana Troyanos is a very powerful Santuzza. If her voice does not have the smoothest production, her intensity and fervor make up for it. Both Gianfranco Cecchele and Vern Shinall were well-suited to their roles of mutual antagonism and macho posing. And only Jean Kraft seemed cold and uncomfortable in her role as Lucia.
Conductor Michaelangelo Veltri seemed to warm to his task as the evening progressed. His "Cavalleria" was careful and lacked the breadth and abandon that can and should give the piece wings.
But the "Pagliacci" was a different story. Here where levels of multiple intent and emotion must be coordinated, Veltri conducted with the deceptive ease of the seasoned veteran maintaining a sense of motion and excitement.