Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (The Players) are today Italian opera’s most famous double act, but they were written independently. Cavalleria rusticana came first, its hugely successful premiere in 1890 doubtless an influence on Leoncavallo. His Pagliacci in 1892 was another triumph. The two works, each undeniable masterpieces of the verismo tradition of realism, share dramatic concision, melodic richness and an obsession with violent jealousy.
Damiano Michieletto’s production was an Olivier-Award-winning hit when first presented in 2015. He sets both operas within the same village, allowing characters from one piece to reappear in the other and offering theatrical realism within visuals that are modern and yet timeless. The production was widely praised at its premiere, and summarized by the Financial Times as ‘a gripping evening all round’.