Review: Opera North

POLISH SETTING: A scene from Opera North's Cavalleria Rusticana.
POLISH SETTING: A scene from Opera North's Cavalleria Rusticana.
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Leeds Grand Theatre

A drab, late-communist queue of shabbily dressed Poles winds its way towards an intermittently-stocked grocer’s and they all burst into a cheerful chorus about oranges blossoming

Opera North’s Cavalleria Rusticana stretches the concept of verismo to its limit, mostly entertainingly – such as when the cuckolded carter, Alfio, pushes a Polski Fiat rather than a Sicilian horse-cart onstage. Somehow the Polish setting works, but the psychological drama of love and betrayal becomes surreal when the chief-betrayer, Turiddu is raised up onto the cross which dominates the stage. It may be a representation of the betrayed Santuzza’s inner struggle with her faith, but it is a distraction.

The main protagonists all shine individually – the anti-hero, Turiddu (Jonathan Stoughton), shows a superb range of tone while Santuzza (Giselle Allen) occupies centre-stage grippingly at all times. Trial by Jury comes almost as a relief, but the spoken setting of the scene, in America, at the start is overlong. When the operetta proper begins though, it’s so polished that it sparkles.

The movement of scenery, the Mack Sennett dancing bridesmaids, and the slapstick choreography of the soloists holds the audience entranced, while the Judge (Jeremy Peaker) and the Defendant (Nicholas Watts) lead the line of D’Oyly Carte-style deftly sung individual performances.