February 7, 2014

May I?

MartiniAnd now if I may, I present our wonderful baritone for Love with a Twist, Stephen Powell (heard here in a delight from Brigadoon.) Stephen will open our exposé on love and all its foibles with the Prologue from I Pagliacci (heard here by the late, great Leonard Warren.)

May I? Will you allow me? Ladies! Gentlemen!
Excuse me if I appear thus alone. I am the Prologue.

Our author has endeavored, rather, to paint for you a slice of life,
His only maxim being that the artist is a man,
And he must write for men.  Truth is his inspiration.
Deep-embedded memories stirred one day within his heart,
And with real tears he wrote, and marked the time with sighs!
Now, then, you will see men love as in real life they love,
And you will see true hatred and its bitter fruit.
And you will hear shouts, both of rage and grief, and cynical laughter.
Mark well, therefore, our souls, rather than the poor players’ garb
We wear, for we are men of flesh and bone, like you, breathing
The same air of this orphan world.  This, then, is our design.
Now give heed to its unfolding.  On with the show! Begin!
-Ruggero Leoncavallo

You may or may not know that in I Pagliacci, the clowns in a traveling troupe play out their tragedy on a stage within a stage. (Think: Vesti la giubba, heard here by Luciano Pavarotti, RIP) When a domestic quarrel acted on stage becomes real, the tenor departs from the script and tries to get his wife to reveal her lover. The crowd gapes in total enjoyment! Remember what I told you about tenors?  Well, he stabs her right there, drawing out the lover from the crowd, who bursts forth trying to save her.  Then the tenor stabs him too.  Twisted love…

This reminds me of when I spent a summer in Siena studying Italian. Siena is a sleepy, Medieval walled city with no cars allowed in its interior.  Nocturnal noises are as they have been for centuries. One night, when ambling home from a late dinner, I heard the rumblings of a domestic squabble echoing through the streets…I it became more and more ominous the nearer I drew. By the time I rounded the corner in question my heart was in my throat.  There, an upper window revealed a couple clearly intent on killing one another. Below stood a crowd of people aurally gaping, fixed in equal measure by horror and pleasure. I Pagliacci, I thought!

Now, the ancient Greeks thought this kind of thing was good for us, the theatre of tragedy. And surely, that is one way to look your coming to Love with a Twist… as an enjoyable dose of ancient medicine, a catharsis, to “purge and purify your human soul from its excessive passions.”

But then again, my hope is that you’ll come because the music is incredible and the singers are fantastic! Besides, there is as much comedy as tragedy… all designed to bring your soul into a harmonious balance.

And at the just the cost of admission, that’s a bargain.

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