Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci have been paired more often than Southwest Airlines has had recent on time flights. The two leading Italian style tenors at the Metropolitan Opera who sang the leading roles in these operas during the 1960s were Franco Corelli and Richard Tucker.
Both had virile spinto tenors that brought skill and excitement to everything they sang. That the Met could repeatedly cast them on the same bill speaks for both the artistic and financial heft that the house had at that time. Money aside, I don’t think any company today could find two active tenors of their quality a place onstage for the same show.
They often appeared on the double bill of Cav & Pag. The 1964 pairing was conducted by Nello Santi. This is the one with Tucker as Turiddu and Corelli as the cuckold clown Canio. In 1970 Leonard Bernstein led the Cavalleria performance, while Pagliacci was conducted by Fausto Cleva. Here, as indicated above, the two superstar tenors switched roles.
Eileen Farrell and Lucine Amara were the sopranos on the earlier recording, while Grace Bumbry and Teresa Stratas were the female leads on the 1970 performance. The full casts are given in the folders below where the operas are available for listening or downloading.
As an intro here’s Vesti la giubba from both shows:
Corelli – Vesti la giubba 1964
Tucker – Vesti la giubba 1970
Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci 1964
Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci 1970
For my biography of Tucker, I talked about him with Corelli, who told me he would’ve given anything to have had Tucker’s unshakable self-confidence. Tucker‘s sudden death in January 1975 seemed so impossible to Corelli that he fell to the floor sobbing uncontrollably when he approached the casket.