By Grant Playter
The Boheme Opera Company debuted a performance of the operas “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “I Pagliacci” in the Kendall Hall Main Stage Theater on Friday, April 20, with a second show on Sunday, April 22. Both operas, independent of each other but often performed together, tackle the issue of adultery and its tragic consequences.
“Cavalleria Rusticana” opened with a soft, building orchestral piece, performed by an in-house orchestra. After a brief drunken monologue from the protagonist, Turridu, the audience is introduced to a beautifully choreographed scene of an Italian community setting up for the day. It features roughly 30 chorus members acting out small, individual stories across the stage.
“The director had us at specific musical points go out at different times to establish what our characterization was,” said Britney Montoro, the chorus master for the play. “There were the people who were the bar attendants, there were people who were selling and giving flowers, there was a bag lady who was specifically selling wares that no one wanted to buy.”
The play details the story of Turridu, who sleeps with his former lover, a woman named Lola who is married to a businessman named Alfio, and spurns his current lover, Santuzza, in the process. After Santuzza confronts Turridu regarding his infidelity, he spurns her again, sending her down the path to vengeance.
Eudora Brown portrayed Santuzza who, fueled by rage and jealousy, revealed Lola’s infidelity to Alfio.
“When she disseminates the information, that means Turridu is gonna die. That is the culture, that’s what happens … that’s her decision point, right there,” Brown said.
Turridu also knows that is his fate once he is confronted by Alfio. Before he walks out to his death, he begs his mother, Lucia, to take care of Santuzza should he die.
At the end of the play, Santuzza still mourns for Turridu despite the play’s events.
“I think that the relationship that (Turridu and Santuzza) have is very broken,” Brown said. “It’s a love-hate kind of relationship, it’s kind of dysfunctional. The director and I decided that there is a real love interest between Turridu and Santuzza, even though it’s completely dysfunctional. He really loves her, and Lola was just sort of the fling.”
The second opera, “I Pagliacci,” concerns the plight of Caino, better known as the clown, and character he portrays, Pagliacci, who endures sorrow following the affair between his wife, Nedda, and a local villager named Silvio.
Caino is part of a traveling performance group comprised of himself, Nedda, a fool named Tonio, who portrays Taddeo and another actor named Beppe.
The band performs plays in which Nedda plays Colombine, a ditzy flirt who is having an affair with Beppe’s character, Arlecchino. Pagliacci and Taddeo provide comic relief to their antics.
When a villager jokes about Nedda cheating, Caino angrily states that he is not a fool in real life.
“Even though Caino might seem a bit angry, often, he does love Nedda,” said Errin Brooks, who portrayed Caino. “He says ‘I’m the one who found you, picked you up off of the street, saved you from hunger and certain death, and I gave you love whenever you wanted, but it apparently wasn’t enough.’ So basically at the end, if (he) can’t have her, no one else can.”
Following this scene, Tonio confesses his love to Nedda, who rejects and insults him. Wounded, Tonio vows vengeance.
Tonio does get his revenge by showing Caino proof of his wife’s infidelity, albeit with unfortunate timing, near the scheduled start of the troupe’s next play.
The play goes on after Tonio managed to placate the furious Caino into performing with his unfaithful wife. During the troupe’s performance, Caino wavers between acting and reality, delivering a powerful performance that left many confused as to what was fictional and what was real.
“There’s the intrigue and the betrayal as a part of the play becomes reality,” Montoro said. “You don’t know at any point in time whether it’s real or it’s not and so you’re in the in-between level. So with Caino, one of the most interesting (aspects) of his character, is that we don’t know if it’s part of the play, and we don’t know if it’s real life until the very end.”
Following the powerful performance, the situation escalates until Caino ends up with two dead bodies at his feet. Despondent, Caino falls to his knees.
Caino looks at the audience as he delivers the final line, “The comedy is finished!”
The productions, fully delivered in Italian with projected English subtitles, contained sensational performances evoking the timeless themes of love and betrayal at the core of both plays. Tragic and melancholic, both plays offered insight into the machinations of the human mind.
“This opera is very much relative to real life,” Brooks said. “It covers love, sex, jealousy, murder — all the delicious ingredients that make up life.”