Pagliacci & Il Tabarro



PAGLIACCI (Clowns, 1892)

A theatre troupe is met enthusiastically by their fans. Canio, an actor but also the director of the troupe, explains to the fans what they can expect from the evening’s performance. The villagers invite the actors to have a drink with them. Tonio turns down the offer, saying that he prefers to remain alone. Someone half-jokingly comments that Tonio stays behind as he is pursuing Nedda, Canio’s wife. Canio doen’t see the humour in the joke. In the play, infidelity goes unpunished, but should it happen in real life, Canio warns, he will show no mercy towards the man making advances on his wife.

Nedda, alone, sings that that she wishes for freedom, but that she is afraid of her husband. Tonio, seizing his opportunity to be alone with Nedda, declares his love by trying to rape her. She manages to fight Tonio off, but he promises revenge.

Silvio arrives. He radiates youth, freedom, tenderness. Nedda falls for him. Tonio, who secretly witnesses this, informs a distraught Canio. Tonio manages to calm him down by instructing him to get ready to go on stage. He dresses for his role whilst his jealousy builds and builds. Nedda collects money from the crowd and warns Silvio that her husband knows of their affair.

The play begins: a farcial comedic drama about infidelity. Canio plays the role of the cuckolded Pagliacco from his own, deeply troubled perspective. Truth transcends fiction, and the play is so sincere and impassioned that the public is hugely enthusiastic. It is only at the moment that Canio fatally stabs Nedda that everyone realises that a tragedy has taken place. Canio then murders the lover, Silvio.


IL TABARRO (The Cloack, 1918) 

We find ourselves on the banks of a river in France. Michele, the owner of a barge, stares off into the sunset whilst his unhappy wife Giorgetta is occupied with laundry. The death of their child has created a rift between them. He yearns for the time when the three of them were wrapped up under his cloak.

The three dockworkers hired by Michele (Tinca, Talpa and Luigi) unload sacks of cement, groaning under the weight. Giorgetta makes sure the workers get to take a break and offers them a glass of wine. An organ grinder appears and Tinca begins, somewhat awkwardly, to dance with Giorgetta. When Luigi steps up to take over, there is an immediate irresistable physical attraction between him and Giorgetta. They dance together, completely unaware of the world around them, until Michele appears. Their dance stops.

When Giorgetta nonchalantly asks Michele what his plans are to crew the barge, he replies that he will not hire any of the men. La Frugula comes to collect her husband Talpa, and the discussion turns to the unjust, hard lives of the dockers. Luigi is moved to utter a fervent protest about their destiny in a lament that wouldn’t seem out of place in a socialist manifesto. When the dockers leave, Luigi remains. He doesn’t want to take leave of Giorgetta and so he pleads with Michele to employ him for the next trip.

Michele prepares the barge for the night. Giorgetta and Luigi plan to meet again that evening. As soon as Michele goes to sleep, Giorgetta shall signal to Luigi that it is safe for him to come on board by lighting a match. After Luigi leaves, Michele reminds Giorgetta of the times when their child was still alive. Does she remember how the wind howled over the deck, and how he protected them all under his cloak? But Giorgetta’s heart remains closed to him. She excuses herself, blaming tiredness, and retires to the hut.

Michele spies on her through the window. She doesn’t seem to be preparing herself for bed, in fact it seems like she is waiting for something. Does his wife have a lover? He lights his pipe. Luigi, hiding on the quay, sees a flame, the signal that Michele is asleep. He creeps aboard. The night is so dark that Luigi doesn’t see until it is too late: Michele. He grabs Luigi and forces him to admit that he is in love with Giorgetta. Driven to fury by the admission, Michele strangles Luigi and then hides him under his cloak. Michele then waits for Giorgetta who approaches him, supspecting nothing. He invites her, just as he used to, to shelter under his cloak. It is there she discovers the lifeless body of her lover.