Both eighty-minute, late-romantic, Italian verismo operas, Cavalleria Rusticana (1889) and Pagliacci (1892) have been performed together in a double bill since 1893. This first revival of director Damiano Michieletto’s beautifully detailed 2015 production sees even more cross-over between the two during the intermezzi and generally as part of the design (Paolo Fantin).

Composer Pietro Masagni is best known for the luscious intermezzo in Cavalleria Rusticana, which along with the opera’s extremely lengthy overture means the orchestra (conducted by Daniel Oren) and enormous chorus of The Royal Opera have plenty of time to shine. Two-timing Turiddu (Bryan Hymel) is caught between two women: plaintive, religious Santuzza (Anna Pirozzi) and new, sexy — but unfortunately already married — Lola (Martina Bell). It’s a bloody “melodramma” for sure, but Michieletto’s direction transcends the repetitive libretto with plenty of visual surprises, and the terrific cast meet the hyper-dramatic demands of the score, all working together to make for a very engaging piece.

Composer (and librettist) Ruggero Leoncavallo’s coded, fatalistic Pagliacci is more arresting rhythmically and harmonically, and formally, with a fourth-wall breaking prologue/epilogue (Roberto Frontali) and a play-within-a-play. Actress Nedda (Simona Mihai) is married to actor Canio (Fabio Sartori) but in love with Silvio (Samuel Dale Johnson). During a performance of the play “Pagliacci”, the life-imitating-art love triangle becomes too much and takes on murderous consequences. The phenomenal cast turn a relentlessly loud and dramatic final act into a taut and surprising public interrogation.

A stunning revolving set (including a seemingly fully functioning bakery) and huge, world-class cast make for a no-holds-barred double bill of insanely dramatic, romantic Italian opera.

Final performance this season 12pm 13 January 2018.

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