Saturday, June 14, 2014, 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 15, 2014, 3:00 pm
Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus
1250 College Avenue, Bexley
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Originally set in southern Italy around the turn of the 20th century, Pagliacci was written as a true crime drama, based on a murder trial that Leoncavallo's own father had presided over. It tells the story of a troupe of traveling clowns, led by the doomed couple, Canio and Nedda.
Tonio, a clown, opens the opera with a prologue in which he tells us that what we are about to see is real people with real emotions. In Act 1, the troupe arrives in the village and is greeted by excited adults and children. They soon see that Canio is insanely jealous of his wife Nedda. When Canio and Beppe, a clown in the troupe, go off to the tavern, Tonio professes his love for Nedda. Nedda laughs at him, and hits him with a whip to drive him away. As soon as Tonio leaves, Silvio, her secret lover, enters and persuades her to elope with him after the evening's show (A stanotte – e per sempre tua sarò). Unfortunately, Tonio has been eavesdropping and decides to exact his revenge by telling Canio that Nedda has a lover. Canio confronts Nedda, but she denies everything. He threatens her with a knife, but Beppe intervenes and reminds them that they have to go present the entertainment the town has been waiting for. Canio puts on his makeup and sings about the paint and the clown act that masks his broken heart (Vesti la giubba.)
The play in Act 2 is just like life. While Pagliaccio (Canio) is out of the house and the servant Taddeo (Tonio) is at the market, Pagliaccio's wife Colombina (Nedda) is serenaded by her secret lover Arlecchino (Beppe). Taddeo returns and professes his love for Colombina, who rebuffs him. Arlecchino roughs up Taddeo and throws him out. Arlecchino and Colombina are making plans to elope (A stanotte – e per sempre tua sarò), when Taddeo warns them that Pagliaccio is coming. Arlecchino escapes just as Pagliaccio rushes in. He has heard the same words that Nedda spoke to her secret lover. At this point the jealousy roiling inside Canio spills over into his character, Pagliaccio, and he demands that Nedda (still playing Colombina) reveal the name of her lover. She tries to stay in character and accuses Pagliaccio of being drunk, but then, as Canio gets more insistent and violent, refuses to name him. The audience at first applauds the realistic interaction of the characters, but then is horrified when it understands that what is happening on stage is not an act. In his rage, Canio plunges a knife into Nedda. Silvio rushes onto the stage to save Nedda and Canio kills him as well. La commedia è finita!
"This is not a romantic opera," says stage director Christopher Purdy. "This is gritty, dirty truth. Heat, dirt, bugs, drunken audiences – they are really beggars, and are often treated as such. There is no love and no softness in this opera." Instead, Pagliacci has become an audience favorite as a tragic tale of power, lust, jealousy, and conviction.
Maestro Alessandro Siciliani returns to the podium to conduct the OPC Chamber Orchestra in this emotional tour de force. Making his debut on the OPC stage as Canio is Timothy Culver. Nedda is played by Dione Parker Bennett, who steps into the spotlight from her usual role as OPC's Artistic Director. Also making their OPC debuts in key roles are Brian Keith Johnson as Tonio, Jeffrey Ambrosini as Silvio, and Benjamin Bunsold as Beppe. The production also includes a chorus drawn from emerging and established singers from throughout central Ohio, as well as members of the International Children's Choir, under the direction of chorus master Michael Lester.