Monday, September 19, 2011

Cav-Pag’s stage director Kay Walker Castaldo discusses her unique vision in these director's notes, explaining the deep psychological resonances of these hot-blooded operas

I’ve often thought it would be very fruitful to write director’s notes after the rehearsal process, when the backstage stories and the cast of characters have just flowered into all the art amid the chaos that must transpire behind the scenes...  Before you, the audience, arrive.

In a sense, you are aware of that secret process, as in Pagliacci's play within a play:  The watchers sense what the actor is thinking.

What lies in the space between reality and illusion, and how does the actor lose himself in a part, merging and developing another facet, even another full persona?    Divining those mysteries by experiencing that metamorphosis is the truth that is strived for. And the birth of verismo contributed to this phase of the modern theater.

Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, opera’s most famous twins, ignited a revolution. When first composed and performed in 1890 and 1892 respectively, they created a furor of excitement, ushered in a new age of modernity and changed the direction of Italian opera.  This verismo or “truth” style replaced the old protagonists of gods, kings, and heroes with the common man and his real-life dramas.
Cav-Pag, as it is affectionately been called since they were first paired in 1903, not only founded verismo, but holds the bar high in terms of the most passionate and high-voltage emotional conflicts presented in opera.

It is interesting to note that there are essentially two traditional periods in which Cavalleria and Pagliacci are usually set: one is the period of their composition and the other is the 1930s.  We have chosen the traditional 1930s setting, as it was a time of tremendous growth and ferment in Italy, with World War II brewing and the Mafiosi gaining power.  This Godfather era resonates powerfully with the images and conflicts of Cav-Pag.   As in Fellini’s La Strada, we see the mix of the ancient elements and birth of the modern world—a World War II motorcycle mixed with medieval customs and laws.  We see that, no matter what the birth struggle of a new time might be, the old order holds.   Even the commedia dell’arte play we present in Pagliacci is built from the ancient sources and drawings. Each lazzi, or trick and joke, is historical and has played for hundreds of years.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Find out why Todd Thomas, our upcoming Alfio and Tonio in Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci loves his job!

While living in Germany from 1995 to 1999, I was cast as Tonio for an eight-city European tour marking the anniversary celebration of Utrecht University in Holland. The university cast the opera with young professional international soloists and pulled the orchestra, chorus and crew from students, alumni and folks from Utrecht. Now, what made this tour particularly special was that we performed the opera in a round blue and orange circus tent. While the orchestra was set up on one portion of the outer ring, bleachers were set up in an identical way that one would find when attending a circus. As the crowds would come into the tent with sodas and popcorn, etc., the orchestra played Fellini Film music scores while a host of clowns, acrobats, and jugglers created a unique atmosphere preparing the environment for this magnificent piece of music drama. The audience, the tent, the summer time, and outside air all joined together to create an incredible evening. The action took place inside the tent ring where you would expect to see animal acts and the like. Nedda's huge dress, which was hung atop the tent, looked like a net dropped and draped over the waiting sopranos head in the middle of her aria. Canio's vest flew in as he prepared for his aria. For the Commedia scenes as well as the opening chorus the extra acrobats and jugglers had wonderful tricks.

The single element which made this a particularly wonderful experience was that the entire company traveled and camped in each city much the same way that Canio, Nedda, Tonio and Canio do in the first act. Each city where we played: Cagnes su mer, Sarlat, Luxenbourg, Bologna, Fiesole, Pisa, Luzerne, and Utrecht, greeted us as we entered the city much the same way as Leoncavallo's characters are welcomed. We had a staff who cooked for us and the entire company of crew, orchestra and chorus camped in their own personal tents. While the principals were provided with pension or hotel stays, I chose to camp with the company. This experience of truly living Pagliacci was a tremendous gift. After the show closed the company needed to liquidate all objects and items associated with the tour. I acquired my Tonio costume which included very special shoes just made for me. I wear these shoes each time I sing this role and Rigoletto as well. Be sure to look at my shoes.

Arizona, get ready for a wonderful evening of music and drama coming soon. This is another moment when I can sincerely say, "I love my job!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Winning contestant receives iPad2

Arizona Opera invites fans, artists and budding film-makers to create their own mini video opera and enter Arizona Opera’s OperaBot Video Contest. Video should be themed or based on a character or plot from one of the opera’s 2011-12 productions this season, including Cavalleria/Rusticana, Pagliacci, Madama Butterfly, Aida, Faust or Orfeo & Euridice. From the crying clown and his murderous revenge, to the temples of ancient Egypt, to
the man who sells his soul to the devil to win the girl, Arizona Opera’s 2011-12 season has a visually rich array of concepts to animate.

All OperaBot contestants will receive two tickets to Arizona Opera’s April performances and the winning submission will receive an iPad2! Submissions can be viewed and voted for on the Arizona Opera’s You Tube Channel, under OperaBot Playlist. To enter, go to to learn about the stories, create your own mini-version, upload your video to YouTube and then email your link to All entries must be received by December 1, 2011.

Winning entry will be selected by popular vote!