One of the most popular opera double-headers is once again on the bill at La Monnaie after an absence of 15 years. In these two short operas, obsessive love and jealousy give rise to explosive emotions and passionate outbursts in the music. In both Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, the stage is peopled by characters of flesh and blood. Reality becomes theatre and, when the masks drop, the theatre becomes reality. Mascagni and Leoncavallo brought rural Italy to the opera stage, ushering in musical verismo. Following his summery Elisir d’amore (2015), Damiano Michieletto is our guest once more with a Mediterranean drama that seems tailor-made for him. He moves the action to the late twentieth century, in a village in southern Italy in the grip of poverty and hypocrisy. Together with the spectators in Pagliacci, we may ask ourselves ‘Do they really? Is it serious?’ Come along and find out for yourself.