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Pagliacci review at Paisley Opera House – ‘immersive community opera’

Scene from Scottish Opera's Pagliacci at Paisley Opera House
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Bill Bankes-Jones’ Pagliacci transports Leoncavallo’s rural Italian tragedy to a tent in Paisley. A performing troupe arrive to stage a commedia dell’arte show during the town’s traditional Sma’ Shot Festival.

The opera, most commonly presented in a double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana, makes a full evening’s entertainment, starting an hour before curtain up with sideshows, dressing up and a raffle to win a go at conducting the orchestra.

The 90-strong professional and community chorus add to the ambience until the troupe arrive at the head of a procession of trade union banners for an immersive, promenade first half. For the second, they bring out benches and the curtains are raised on a flat-bed lorry to reveal Columbina’s kitchen where Nedda’s tragedy will play out.

Bankes-Jones’ thoroughly accessible English translation – down to the reminder to turn off your mobiles in the prologue – is delivered with clarity throughout.

Ronald Samm is particularly thrilling as Canio. His Put on the Costume aria – on discovering Nedda’s infidelity – is spine tingling.

Robert Hayward is a forceful Tonio – here given the final line. There’s a real sense of danger to his unwanted advances towards Nedda, given an edgy telling by Anna Patalong. Nedda’s flirtation with Samuel Dale Johnson’s Silvio is a vocal triumph –and his reimagining as a Scottish Opera technician a particularly clever touch.

This is a highly entertaining production, cleverly designed and presented with attention to detail.

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Scottish Opera’s immersive community production revitalises and illuminates the tragic opera