How an Italian Maestro Made Two Verismo Classics His Own

In his Metropolitan Opera debut during the 1988–1989 season, Alessandro Siciliani conducted the classic duo of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci to strong reviews. One New York critic called him the Lorin Maazel of opera conductors, making a comparison to the legendary symphonic conductor’s prodigious talent and range. Maestro Alessandro Siciliani, the son of renowned Italian conductor and impresario Francesco Siciliani, currently serves as artistic and music director of Opera Project Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, after spending 12 years as conductor and music director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

“The man has Italian opera in his bones,” a Columbus-area critic has said of Maestro, a heritage evident in his Met debut.

Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), composed by Pietro Mascagni, first played to audiences in Rome in 1890. The one-act opera’s naturalistic style — “verismo” in Italian — also characterizes Pagliacci (Clowns), by Ruggero Leoncavallo, which debuted in Milan in 1892. Both center on themes of passion, love, betrayal, and revenge, and use rough, unsophisticated characters and settings.

The two short pieces are so often paired that fans and critics frequently refer to them as simply “Cav and Pag.” In 1895, the Metropolitan Opera was the first to bill them together in this way in the United States.

In Maestro Siciliani’s 1988 Met performance, he drew a fine orchestral interpretation of the scores, while adding the kind of highly individualistic creative touches that have consistently marked his style.

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Alessandro Siciliani — Award-Winning Conductor

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Alessandro Siciliani

Alessandro Siciliani

Alessandro Siciliani — Award-Winning Conductor

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