This is not the best production I have seen of Pagliacci, the 1968, 1948 and 1982 versions are in my opinion better. But this Met production is very good, not perfect, but better than the meagre rating than it's got on here.
What doesn't make it perfect? Well, the picture quality isn't always that sensuous in quality, sometimes a little grainy. And also, while all the singing is great and the orchestra also do a fine job under the energetic baton of James Levine, the audio occasionally sounds muffled particularly in the chorus before the play scene, and I think there were a few late entries in that chorus too.
However, what I loved about this Pagliacci was that the sets and costumes were very nice to look at, especially Nedda's in the final scene, I personally would've made the stage in the play scene a little larger though, while there is some nifty camera work my favourite being the shot with Tonio taking his wig off in the prologue(one of my favourite little things about this as well as the part when Domingo rips open the front of his clown costume and the whole Nedda/Tonio interaction in the play scene, Milnes especially is hilarious). The story is a very dramatic and emotional one, and this production does do a fine job with conveying these qualities, and the music is just outstanding.
The performances are wonderful. Placido Domingo is a magnificent Canio, brutish yet in many scenes-such as Vesti La Guibba which is heart-wrenching here- you feel sympathy for him, more so than Nedda I'd say. He looks very handsome as he always does, his acting is so good here that like Jon Vickers(a very terrifying Canio) he becomes the character rather than playing him and his singing is very musical. And I must give him credit for recovering so quickly and brilliantly after his chair trip, which is enough to throw anybody off, and although la commedia e finita is traditionally said by Tonio Domingo delivers it in such both a poignant and chilling way for me it doesn't matter.
Domingo isn't the only outstanding performer. Teresa Stratas is another performer I hold in high regards, seeing her in Zefferelli's La Traviata opposite Domingo you'll know what I mean, and she is one of the better Neddas I have seen. She shows both a bitchy and vulnerable side seamlessly, and the final scene sees her showing moments of increased panic as she realises that it is not an act but she mustn't let the audience know that(which is exactly what makes that scene so tense for me). Allan Monk is a finely delicate Silvio, lovely voice and his chemistry with Stratas was smouldering, I do think however his death could have been better staged, it looked a tad clumsy. Sherrill Milnes is a superb Tonio as well, while you do hate him sometimes when he is being mocked by Nedda you do feel some sympathy for him. Milnes also displays an intelligent acting ability and is on fine vocal form. His performance of the prologue complete with a goosebump-inducing high A flat especially was a revelation, with only the occasionally annoying dip-thongs and one section that could have done with more pathos being my only complaints.
Overall, very good. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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