Pagliacci: Music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Gianni Schicchi: Music by Giacomo Puccini | Libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
A troupe of traveling actors arrives in a small village. Their leader, Canio, tells the crowd about the performance that will be taking place later. A comment made by one of the villagers makes us aware that Canio is very jealous when it comes to his wife, Nedda, an actress in the troupe. The villagers make their way to vespers. Left alone, Nedda worries about Canio’s jealousy and dreams of freedom. One of the actors, Tonio, joins her and declares his love. She bluntly pushes him away. He makes his way off, swearing vengeance.
A young villager soon comes to find Nedda, receiving a much better welcome: it is her lover, Silvio. The two lovers speak of running off together. Tonio, in hiding, has heard everything and is more than delighted to tell Canio. The jealous husband arrives just in time to hear Nedda promise Silvio she will leave with him after the performance. But Canio was not quick enough to get a good look at the interloper’s face. He demands that his wife talk but Nedda refuses to reveal her lover’s name. Tonio and Beppe, another member of the troupe, try to calm Canio: soon it will be show time, the lover will surely be in the audience, and Canio will be able to catch sight of the revealing glances he casts at Nedda. Canio broods over the pain of being a betrayed husband.
The play begins and we realize that it mirrors real life a little too closely: Canio plays Pagliaccio, whose wife, Colombina—played by Nedda—is cheating on him. The tension mounts between husband and wife, and before long, the actors are no longer acting. The play comes to a tragic end.
Wealthy, old Buoso Donati has just died. Around him, his family members solemnly mourn. But one of them informs the others of a rumor that is making the rounds: Buoso has left his entire fortune to the monks. Everyone frantically searches the premises, hoping to find the will. The first to get his hands on it is young Rinuccio. But he refuses to show it to anyone unless he is given permission to marry the girl he loves: Lauretta, the daughter of Gianni Schicchi. Consent is quickly given, and Rinuccio sends for Schicchi while the family pores over the will. The rumor is confirmed: all of Buoso’s assets must go to a monastery. The relatives are furious. Rinuccio takes advantage of the opportunity to extol the merits of the clever Gianni Schicchi, the only one who can help them. Not missing a beat, Schicchi arrives with Lauretta. Zita, Rinuccio’s aunt, loses her temper and swears that her nephew will never marry a beggar’s daughter. Schicchi, taking offense, refuses to help them. But Lauretta begs him to at least have a look at the will. Schicchi consents and, in reading, has an idea: since no one aside from the family is yet aware of the death, the will can be rewritten. He slips into the dead man’s clothes, takes his place in bed, and imitates Buoso’s voice before the notary, who doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. All goes off without a hitch, except that the false Buoso dictates his last will in a completely unexpected way, to the great dismay of the entire family. Only Rinuccio and Lauretta are happy, as they will finally be able to celebrate their union.
- Pierre Vachon