Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yeah, yeah, I love opera so sue me

I am unrepentant: I love opera. I have been to operas and I own opera recordings, my favorite of which is Guiseppi Verdi's Otello, with John Vickers and Tito Gobbi as Othello and Iago. I recommend this recording for anyone who thinks that opera is for sissies or snobby intellectuals (though it's a free country so they are welcome also). It has exciting orchestration, powerful singing, and subtle acting. John Vickers was sort of famous for singing Otello, but another role he was well known for is Canio in an opera called Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. I have a dream of one day drawing up an illustrated, comics version of Pagliacci, because I find the story so interesting. Here is a drawing based on the opera's climactic scene:

The story of Pagliacci is pretty sordid. An actor and his wife work together in a theater troupe. They perform opposite each other as husband and wife clowns, in a comedy where she cheats on him and he plays the fool. Ironically, the actor's wife is cheating on him offstage as well, and the actor catches her just before their performance. He must then go onstage and play the role of the cuckolded husband that he has assumed in real life. The emotional strain is too much for him and, after some singing, he stabs his wife to death in front of everyone. Total bummer.

The murder scene is, hands down, the best part of the opera. At first, the audience applauds what they think is Canio's (the actor's) realistic performance. But then he pulls out a knife, and they sh*t themselves.

Here is an awesome clip of John Vickers singing that scene from a film version of the opera. Raina Kabaivanska, who plays his wife, is also great. One warning - if you are afraid of clowns, like my wife, you may not want to watch this.

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