Pagliacci at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Pagliacci. Photo credit: Glynis Price and Francis Price

Pagliacci. Photo credit: Glynis Price and Francis Price

Pagliacci by by Ruggero Leoncavallo
August 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27 at Venue #16: The Sanctuary Stage at Holy Trinity Anglican Church


An interview with Christina O’Dell.

Describe your show in one sentence.

La commedia é finita; the comedy is finished.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description of your show?

Pagliacci is essentially a show within a show; it portrays the lives and passions of a group of travelling actors, who have come to town to present a commedia dell’arte show (which is basically a comedic show of archetypal stock characters and clowns).  The story centres around an actress named Nedda, and the various men who love her both on and off stage. As the opera progresses, unbeknownst to the townspeople watching the show, there comes to be an increasingly dangerous blurring between reality and the show that is being presented.  Nedda’s jealous husband Canio (portraying the beloved Pagliacco clown) begins to gradually lose control of his actions and emotions, building towards what has become known as one of the most iconic and indeed tragic endings in the operatic genre.

What meaning do you hope modern audiences take from this 125-year old opera? 

We are really just hoping to bring our audiences along with us on this wild emotional journey. Opera is special in that it allows listeners to experience the emotions felt by characters in a uniquely concrete and personal way, due to the nature of the music and the voices that bring life to it. This show is no exception in this respect, and also includes the added intrigue of life imitating art on multiple levels.  In addition to the lives of the commedia actors and their respective characters becoming intertwined, the audience too becomes mixed up in the action.  They essentially become an extension of the chorus of spectators on stage and share equally in the visceral experience of watching powerlessly as the tragedy unfolds in front of them. While the chorus at times serves to bring voice the universal emotional reactions felt by all watching, there are moments where the music itself is so powerful that story suddenly transcends language and enters a world of pure feeling and sensation.  This is the power of opera, and can’t wait to share this experience with audiences!

Opera can seem like an intimidating art form to attend a performance of, which is why it’s so great that you’re bringing opera to the Fringe for the second year! What about Pagliacci makes it a great “introductory” opera for audiences who may be unfamiliar with the art form?

Pagliacci is actually sort of the “sister show” to Cavalleria Rusticana, which we presented last year at Fringe.  As they are both relatively short, they are often performed together as two halves in regular operatic seasons.  By presenting them individually, we are providing a sort of bite-sized opportunity for people to experience opera; short, but still a wonderful sampling of the artistry and passion that has allowed this art form to persist for hundreds of years.  Pagliacci in particular packs quite a punch in this respect; it contains some of the most beautiful music ever written in the operatic canon, perhaps most famously the ‘Vesti la giubba’ aria, in which Canio prepares to don his costume and become the clown Pagliacco, burying his anguish and rage under makeup and preparing to bring joy to others as his own heart is breaking.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show? 

Really, we are so excited to be back at Fringe again this year, working together to bring this story to life as part of this wonderful festival!  We would also like to note that like last year, the opera will be performed in Italian, with English translation surtitles.  See you all at Fringe!

The 36th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 17 – 27. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca .

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