NEW YORK (AP) — When the Metropolitan Opera closes out its HD broadcast season this Saturday, tenor Marcelo Alvarez will be doing double duty. In a relatively rare feat, he'll sing the leads in both halves of opera's favorite twin bill: Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Ruggero Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci."
Here's a preview:
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT
"Cavalleria" (which premiered in 1890) and "Pagliacci" (1892) were their composers' first operas to be produced and remain by far their most popular. Both are written in the "verismo" or realistic style, portraying love, jealousy and violence among ordinary people. Since 1893 the two short works have been joined at the hip to make up a full-length evening. The Met's new production by David McVicar sets them in the same Sicilian village square, "Cav" in 1900 and "Pag" in 1948.
DOING DOUBLE DUTY
In the more than 500 times the Met has presented the works together, Alvarez is only the ninth tenor to sing both the roles of Turridu in "Cav" and Canio in "Pag" in one performance. The last singer to do it was Alvarez' fellow Argentinian Jose Cura in 2009.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Before this Met production, Alvarez had never sung the role of Turridu and made his debut as Canio only recently in Monte Carlo.
"Why not take the challenge to perform both here at the Met," he said in an interview last week. "From the beginning of my career, I have taken on new roles at big theaters. It's not easy, but I enjoy the pressure."
For Alvarez, the character of Turridu, who abandons his girlfriend, sleeps with another man's wife and is killed in a duel, is "a typical southern Italian, a little bit crazy, not thinking what he's going to say, impulsive." Canio, leader of a band of strolling comedians who becomes murderously jealous of his unfaithful wife, "thinks more about what he's going to do. It's the young, headstrong character versus the older man who wants to protect what he has."
The singing challenges of the roles are different as well, Alvarez said. "With Turridu, the voice is under stress throughout. Much of the role lies right where the voice breaks. There's no chance to relax. 'Pagliacci' is a better-written opera, vocally speaking. The voice has a chance to build from the lighter moments at the beginning to help prepare for the dramatic final scene."
WHERE TO SEE IT
The Met's HD broadcast will be shown live in movie theaters around the world starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. A list of theaters can be found at the Met's website: metopera.org. In the United States, it will be repeated on Wednesday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. local time.