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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Domingo thrills in Royal Opera return
by Manuel Toledo
BBC News Online

Placido Domingo
Domingo first played Canio nearly 40 years ago

Placido Domingo has received a warm welcome in London for his first performance in Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci in Covent Garden for more than 25 years.

Although Domingo has one of the largest repertoires in opera history as a leading tenor, the part of Canio has long been considered one of his most memorable roles.

His performance as the cuckolded clown who kills his wife and her lover is elegant and mesmerising, menacing and fragile.

Since he first played the role in 1965, the Spanish tenor has had the opportunity to murder several of the finest ladies of world opera on stage, and this time it was Angela Gheorghiu's turn.

Click here to review the opera yourself

The Romanian soprano, celebrated for her Mimě, Adina and Violetta, seems to have perfectly captured her character's intensity and despair, and her debut as Nedda was received with enthusiastic bravos.

The lavish production has a huge cast
The rest of the cast was also exceptional. Dmitri Hvorostovsky played Nedda's secret lover Silvio, Lado Ataneli was the hunchback Tonio, and Daniil Shtoda made his debut in the role of Beppe.

Like Gheorghiu, all of them were born in the former Soviet bloc: Hvorostovsky and Shtoda in Russia, and Ataneli in Georgia.

This magnificent production, however, is unashamedly Italian. It was designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with costumes by Raimonda Gaetani, and it received its premiere in Rome in 1992.

It brings into central London a colourful chunk of modern Naples, with its Vespas and its sailors, some seemingly corrupted policemen, and graffittis praising Diego Maradona.

It also brings on stage more than 140 people, including three dozen children...and a donkey.

When Dmitri Hvorostovsky was leaving the Royal Opera House, he interrupted the shouts of bravo from his fans with one question: "And what did you think about the donkey?"

The audience signalled their approval.

Pagliacci is at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 until 20 July. The production will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 12 July at 18.30.

The 16 July performance will be relayed live to Covent Garden Piazza and Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, in London, Baltic Square in Gateshead and the Botanical Gardens in Belfast.

Have you seen the opera?

What did you think? Send us your views on the form below.

I saw Pagliacci on Monday 7 July. I found it a vibrant and very dramatic production, which gripped me. This, in spite of an overcrowded set, and some very soft singing by the principals which made a great deal of it barely audible. There were some excellent scenes of amazing dramatic tension, which reminded me of why opera can work; the singers' commitment to the drama of the story really lifted it.
Yuen-Wei Chew, UK

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