Polish director Karolina Sofulak made her Opera North debut at Leeds Grand Theatre with a new production of Pietro Mascagni’s 1890 opera Cavalleria Rusticana, set in her home country in the late-1970s.
Originally set in a Sicilian village, Cavalleria Rusticana is usually thought of as a quintessentially Italian work, but this rendition, however, has a modern twist. Sofulak’s unusual new setting is partly inspired by great Polish cinema – as her main inspiration she names directors Krzysztof Kieślowski and Stanisław Bareja – and her own experiences of growing up in an intensely Catholic and economically deprived country.
“Poland is a deeply religious country which was occupied for centuries by various foreign powers, and in this respect it’s very similar to post-Risorgimento Sicily, the original setting of Cavalleria Rusticana. I chose the late-1970s as my setting, because I find that communist reality of the time shared the lack of perspectives and general sense of desperation felt in Cavalleria. People were particularly mistrustful of the state then, and they tended to try and solve their differences without recourse to the police, especially in rural areas. Catholicism was of utmost importance, as it was considered dissident by the regime.”
The opera will run in Opera North until 21 October and then go on a tour that includes Hull New Theatre, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Theatre Royal Newcastle and The Lowry, Salford Quays.