2017, ROH London, Pagliacci


(in a double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana)

Composer: Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Librettist: Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Conductor: Daniel Oren
Director: Damiano Michieletto
Set Designer: Paolo Fantin
CostumeDesigner: Carla Teti
Lighting  Designer: Alessandro Carletti
Venue and Dates: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

29 November – Schools Matinee, not available for public booking
2, 6 (matinee), 9, 12, 15, 19 and 22 December 2017


Canio: Bryan Hymel  (replacing the originally announced Fabio Sartori)
Tonio: Simon Keenlyside
Nedda: Carmen Giannattasio, Simona Mihai (22.12 only)
Silvio: Andrzej Filonczyk
Beppe: Luis Gomes

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Simon’s role debut as Tonio

Photo Gallery

Sound bites

Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, 03 December 2017

(4 stars)

“…..The outstanding performance here, however, was that of another Covent Garden absentee – Simon Keenlyside, returning after a three-year absence due to throat illness as the scheming Tonio and happily proving that his voice remains splendidly vigorous as well as acting the vicious lecherous misfit with Dickensian relish. …”

Mark Ronan, markronan.com, 03 December 2017

(review contains photos)

“…Clever production effects aside, this was a fantastic performance of both operas with an exceptional Simon Keenlyside as Tonio in Pagliacci. His prologue, sung to the real audience was terrific, and his aria about being deformed was superbly sung and acted, the hunched silhouette on the wall adding to the effect. Not many top-flight baritones could have carried off Fagin in the musical Oliver! as effectively as Keenlyside at Grange Park Opera in 2016, and his acting is now nonpareil…….”

David Karlin, Bachtrack, 03 December 2017

(5 stars, review contains photos)

“…..Simon Keenlyside’s voice is on the smooth side for the hunchbacked ruffian that is Tonio, but he put in so much energy and sounded so good that it’s hard to complain…..”

Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard International, 03 December 2017

(review contains photos)

“…….Simon Keenlyside set the tone for Pagliacci with ‘Si può? Si può?’ and I haven’t heard this daunting solo sung so compellingly since those days of Cappuccilli. …”

Claudia Pritchard, Culture Whisper, 03 December 2017

(4 stars)

“….In Pagliacci, the star turn alongside Bryan Hymel is British baritone Simon Keenlyside, another consummate actor, whose voice we have heard little in this verismo repertoire. He is loose-limbed and sinister as the unlovable Tonio (but beautiful of voice), tormenting Italian soprano Carmen Giannatttasio’s gorgeous Nedda….”

David Nice, The Arts Desk, 04 December 2017

(review contains photos)

“….and Simon Keenlyside as a loud, burnished Tonio whose gestures don’t quite add up and who, as originally intended, gets the final line – “la commedia è finita!” – after Leoncavallo’s bloodbath (unfortunately the spotlight didn’t fall on him on opening night)….”

Richard Morrison, The Times, 04 December 2017 (fee payable)

(4 stars)

“…Simon Keenlyside excels as creepy, Iago-like Tonio (Pag)….”

George Hall, The Stage, 04 December 2017

(free registration required to read this review)

“…..Returning after an absence from this stage, Simon Keenlyside not only offers a vocally authoritative Tonio but his disturbingly sleazy characterisation is unmissable…….”

Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 04 December 2017

(3 stars)

“… best of all, there’s a welcome return for Simon Keenlyside as a scheming Tonio who demands every bit of our attention….”

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 10 December 2017

(4 stars)

“…… and the unlovely Tonio, superbly sung with repugnant, tight anger and a convincing, rubbery physicality by Simon Keenlyside….”

Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 04 December 2017  (fee payable)

(4 stars)

We are not permitted to reproduce any section of the FT review.

Vivian Darkbloom, Schmopera, 04 December 2017

“…. Simon Keenlyside sang wonderfully as Tonio/Taddeo though I would have liked a little more despicableness from his character…..”

Michael Church, The Independent, 04 December 2017

(4 stars)

“…..Pagliacci has only two characters of any intrinsic interest – the vengeful hunchback Tonio and the doomed impresario Canio – but thanks to Simon Keenlyside and Hymel (who gave a towering performance) they emerged with unforgettable vividness…..”

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 11 December 2017

“….Simon Keenlyside does not have a conventionally heroic baritone for Tonio, but he brought a litheness and dark power to the line and a supreme intelligence. His opening prologue was gripping, full of telling vocal and physical details, in fact Keenlyside’s whole performance was a very physical one. As the plot progressed, Keenlyside elicited perhaps more sympathy than some purely evil depictions, and his finally words had an element of sadness to it….”

David Buchler, Opera Spy, December 2017

“…..The Tonio was sung by the English baritone, Simon Keenlyside, who shone in his prologue ‘Si puo’ and throughout his performance….”

 Juan José Freijo, Platea Magazine, 09 December 2017

“….en la que también destacó un Simon Keenlyside de canto impecable aunque algo falto de maldad para el papel de Tonio….”

“…in which Simon Keenlyside also stood out for impeccable singing, although somewhat lacking in evil for the role of Tonio…”

Sophia Lambton, operawire.com, 18 December 2017

“….Simon Keenlyside’s Tonio makes everybody else look small. Every note of his is an arc in itself; opening, rising to a crescendo in self-realization, fading with sadness and completing a musical crest. Well-tempered usage of vibrato gives his baritone the premonition on which the entire opera should depend: an eerie sentiment of unavoidable catastrophe. The contemplativeness which this lends to the “Prologo” makes it much more than a fable’s adage…..”

Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 08 December 2017

“…..Simon Keenlyside injected a terrible hostility into the Prologue of Pagliacci. Alone in Nedda’s claustrophobic, starkly-lit backstage dressing-room, as he invited us to enjoy the ensuing drama, Tonio seemed to sneer with contempt at our gullibility and casual ignorance as he reminded us that what we were about to see involved real people with real emotions. And, Keenlyside made sure that the rejected hunch-back’s latent menace was evident throughout, despite Tonio’s shabbiness and shuffling: think Rigoletto meets Iago…..”

Sam Smith, Opera Online, 22 December 2017

“…..It is Simon Keenlyside, however, who delivers one of the best performances of the evening as Tonio. He brings his outstanding baritone to the fore, and displays some immensely subtle acting in a role that it is all too easy to play simply as caricature…..”

M. Lehnert, Opernglas 1/2018 (fee payable)

” … Vom ersten Takt des Prologs an machte SK als Tonio klar, dass stimmlich wieder voll mit ihm zu rechnen ist. So ausgeruht, brilliant und höhenstark warf er seine wunderschön timbrierten Bariton ins Geschehen, dass großer Jubel die Stimmung auf die Spitze trieb. Auch im Folgenden gab er eine höchst präsente Charakterisierung, der die Kollegen nicht nachstanden. …”

“…From the first bar of the Prologue Simon Keenlyside made it clear that vocally he could once again be completely counted on. With his beautifully timbred baritone, so rested, brilliant and strong on the high notes, he threw himself into the action, drawing the audience into the heightened atmosphere. During the rest of the opera he offered a vivid, ever present characterisation, equally matched by his colleagues….”

Flora Willson, Opera magazine, February 2018  (fee payable)

“….Onstage, Simon Keenlyside’s Tonio was genuinely menacing as he heaved himself around the stage, his vocal delivery running the gamut from barked Sprechgesang to flashes of disconcertingly beautiful legato…….”


Twitter Roundup

Below are just some of the great comments that appeared on Twitter during the run of the Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci double bill:

What a spectacular return to the Royal Opera House, stealing the show (even the show he wasn’t in) by being the finest, most charismatic actor on stage, biting into and colouring the text, & singing splendidly. WELCOME BACK SIMON #ROHCavPag

#ROHCavPag Simon Keenlyside’s Prologo was a mini-opera in itself. So glad to see him back where he belongs.

Cool patrician @elinagaranca as Santuzza and wonderful to have Simon Keenlyside back on stage @TheRoyalOpera with his inimitable wild duck routine #rohCavPag  

Wonderful production, amazing cast! Glorious singing by #Simon Keenlyside #ROHcavpag

Superb singing in an inspired production: #ROHcavpag Highlights were Hymel’s anguished, thrilling Turiddu, Garanča’s vocally glamourous Santuzza, Keenlyside’s commanding, insinuating Tonio and the multi-talented @ROHchorus

Pagliacci cast also top drawer – Keenlyside singing fabulously as Alfio (sic!) – who knew – and Giannattasio sounding even better than last time as Nedda (is there a Tosca here…?) #ROHcavpag

A superb evening of verismo, swept along by the singers in a fantastic staging #rohcavpag

Well last night was quite extraordinary. Seeing #ROHcavpag with Simon Keenlyside and finally @bryan_hymel live… What a voice! #mamma

Britain, greatness was on the stage of the @RoyalOperaHouse tonight not in the studio of the #xfactorfinal outstanding, raw artistry that spoke straight to the gut. Immediate and truthful.

Worth it for the bread alone, plus wonderful @bryan_hymel and @skbaritoneinfo @RoyalOperaHouse Cav and Pag #ROHcavpag

Not detracting from the other performances but I thought that Simon Keenlyside’s Tonio was alone worth the ticket price. Can’t tell you how great it is to see him back on the ROH stage. As always, a consummate singer & actor #ROHCavPag

Such a special intro to #ROHCavPag at the @TheRoyalOpera today. From the utterly jaw-droppingly beautiful voice of @elinagaranca and stonking performances of @bryan_hymel and Simon Keenlyside to the tear jerking acting before Elena Zilio even opened her mouth! #thebeautyofmusic

#ROHCavPag fabulous all round, Hymel and Garanca truly stunning, passionate, fine production, and welcome back Wonderful Simon Keenlyside

#ROHCavPag was sensational. Garanča was vocally magnificent (as always). Her Santuzza was incredibly moving, vulnerable and full of feelings. And Keenlyside’s prologo was brilliantly captivating.

A superb production of #cavpag. Knitting the two operas together hugely increased the impact of both. And what a pleasure to see – and hear – Simon Keenlyside in uncharacteristically creepy form.

Outstanding #rohcavpag with stellar cast @BRYANHYMEL, @elinagaranca , @cargiannattasio and Keenlyside. Superb production.

Completely blown away by #ROHcavpag. Production that finds true, dark drama in what would otherwise be just overblown melodrama. Executed by astounding cast, no weak links, but Garanča, Hymel, Giannattasio, Zilio, Keenlyside: all brilliant. Been ages since I was so transported.

Loved #rohcavpag tonight. Fantastic to see the wonderful Simon Keenlyside back – but stellar cast all round.

Edge of the seat stuff at #ROHCavPag; a glorious evening and a great return by Keenlyside…

Well… #ROHCavpag Pagliacci was also pretty much perfect, with Keenlyside & Hymel in particular on fire. It’s tragic an’ all, but opera is just so much FUN when people are in the zone

So pleased to see and hear Simon Keenlyside back in tremendous form in #ROHcavpag! Tonight’s performance was really worth the trip from Copenhagen

#ROHcavpag tonight. More a fan of the Pag than the Cav, to be honest. And great to see the wonderful Simon Keenlyside back on stage.

#ROHcavpag was wonderful tonight – what a great cast. So much emotion. Lovely to see Simon Keenlyside back on stage, singing & acting up a storm.

Sublime music and stunning singing from Simon Keenleyside and @elinagaranca but @bryan_hymel was just superb, especially his Vesti la giubba #rohcavpag

Phenomenal #ROHcavpag Out of this world stunning singing from @bryan_hymel and Simon Keenlyside!!!! Totally blew me away, what an experience, what a privilege!

#ROHcavpag simply superb. Glad to see @skbaritoneinfo back on stage singing both the Prologue and Tonio; fantastic production marrying the two operas and there is non-stop action.


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