For the first time in 15 years, the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) will perform a double-bill opera featuring Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Puccini's only comedy Gianni Schicchi.
It will be staged from Sept 10 to 12 at the Esplanade Theatre.
Director Tom Hawkes says the pairing of the tragic Pagliacci and the comedy Gianni Schicchi makes for a "very rewarding combination".
He explains that both performances stem from the Italian Commedia del Arte tradition, an improvisational style of theatre that was common in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Pagliacci revolves around a company of touring actors led by Canio. He suspects his wife Nedda is having an affair while the group is preparing to stage a comedy called Pagliaccio. The latter mirrors what is happening in "real life" - a wife hiding an affair from her husband - and a double-murder ensues.
In Gianni Schicchi, the relatives of the recently dead Buoso Donati scheme to attain his wealth and turn to a man called Gianni Schicchi for help. Reluctant to help the relatives at first, he relents and takes the place of the dead man, fools the doctor and makes a new will.
BOOK IT / LEONCAVALLO’S PAGLIACCI AND PUCCINI’S GIANNI SCHICCHI
WHERE: Esplanade Theatre
WHEN: Sept 10 to 12,8pm
ADMISSION: $28 to $130 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg). Prices exclude booking fee
The comedy, which premiered in 1918, was the final opera to Puccini's Il Trittico, a collection of three one-act operas and was the only comedy Puccini wrote. Both productions will be sung in Italian accompanied by English and Chinese surtitles - translations of what is being sung - projected on a screen.
The performances will feature an international cast, most of whom are involved in both performances.
Pagliacci features Korean tenor Lee Jae Wok as Canio and Japanese soprano Sachika Ito as Nedda. They will be supported by Filipino tenor Lemuel dela Cruz and Singaporean baritones William Lim and Martin Ng.
Except Lim, all of the actors are also involved in Gianni Schicchi, which features English baritone Adrian Clarke playing the titular character. The rest of the cast includes English mezzo-soprano Sarah Pring and New Zealand-born Samoan soprano Marlena Devoe.
The performances will be led by conductor Joshua Kangming Tan and will feature the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra, Opera Chorus and SLO Children's choir.
The last time the SLO performed a double-bill opera was in 2000, with Pagliacci and Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, a love tragedy.
"I never feel like there is enough time, especially with Pagliacci where there is a lot of different chorus work to be done," says Hawkes when asked about the biggest challenge in directing the performances. The 76-year-old director, who is based in London, was here in February last year when he directed Cosi Fan Tutte with the SLO.
He takes on only three to four projects a year, less than half of the average 10 projects he used to do when he was younger. He agreed to this project because of his ties with the Singapore Lyric Opera, having worked with it on multiple occasions since the opera company was founded in 1990.
"That is why Singapore is special to me. It's like home," he says.