Reviewed by Tony Villecco
On Wednesday evening (April 24), I attended the final dress rehearsal for Tri-Cities Opera’s double bill of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Let me preface this review by stressing that singers sometimes “mark” or do not sing full out during rehearsals in order to save their voices for performance. While both operas had some fine moments, the two pieces were not totally devoid of problems.
Tenor Kirk Dougherty has moved into a heavier repertoire by taking on the leads in both “Cav” (Turiddu) and “Pag” (Canio). I cannot fairly access his performance as he marked throughout, rarely singing full voice.
In Cavalleria, mezzo Sarah Kennedy successfully highlighted the tormented Santuzza and sang her aria, “Voi lo sapete,”with passion. The role of Alfio was handsomely applied by baritone Patrick McNally who also performed the role of the lover Silvio, in Pagliacci. McNally’s voice and stage presence have both taken some serious strides forward with his impressive swaggering.
Smaller roles in “Cav” are  Turiddu’s mother and Alfio’s unfaithful wife, Lola. Molly Adams-Toomey and Emily Geller, respectively, sang well, and Toomey brought pathos to her character. The chorus had some awkward staging  — peasants arriving in spurts for church — which initially hindered the famous “Easter Chorus,” but the orchestra sounded magnificent as I sat with moist eyes during the famous “Intermezzo.”
There were, however, moments in each opera where Maestro John Mario Di Costanzo seemed to take the rhythm a bit too literally, which both slowed down the action and seemed to hinder both soloists and chorus. Still, he took a firm rein with his fine orchestra producing a lush, even and detailed sound. The orchestra’s bass players, in particular, are to be commended for eliciting great warmth which served to highlight each composer’s dramatic intent.
Perhaps the evening’s standout (if it’s even fair to single out anyone) was soprano Inna Dukach, who sang the role of Nedda in Pagliacci. Her singing was marked by a beauty of tone throughout her vocal registers, and she is a fine actress to boot.
Other “Pag” leads included baritone Robert Heepyoung Oh and tenor Stephen Webb. As Tonio, Oh was superb. His opening prologue, an iconic staple for baritones, was most fine. Webb as Beppe proved he is a singer with both flair and a lovely voice. Leading roles are not far off for him, I suspect.
The  chorus has wonderful moments in both shows and, overall, sang very well with a few minor snags that will no doubt be cleaned up by opening night.
Stage director Martha Collins had some inspired moments, especially in “Pag” with the joviality of the theater troupe and later, in the finale, when the “play within a play” takes on a sinister turn. The doll- or marionette-like movements she encouraged from her Nedda were most effective.
The costumes and sets both appeared designed for economy of space and atmosphere. The peasants’ dresses in “Cav” were appropriately drab while the ones for “Pag” had a bit more flair and color. The effective lighting enhanced the operas’ intense musical heartbreak.
IF YOU GO: Performances of “Cav/Pag,” the final offering of TCO’s 2012-13 season, are at 8 p.m. Friday (April 26) and 3 p.m. Sunday (April 28) at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. Both one-act operas will be in Italian with English surtitles. For tickets, call 772-0400.