Let’s be honest: Besides punctuality and organization, Italians are the best at everything. Especially the arts. And why are they so talented at creating most of what we know and making everything better and look beautiful? Because they understand Life. I always said “To love something, you must first appreciate it. To appreciate, you must understand it. And to understand something you must understand and feel all the joys and (especially) pains of something.” These joys and pains are perfectly expressed in another Italian gift to the World: Opera.
Most people may not be familiar with the Opera “Pagliacci”, but most could recognize the famous aria “Vesti la Giubba”, where, towards the end of the first act, the tenor screams, “Ridi, Pagliaccio”. A quick synopsis of the Opera will give a good foundation and backgorund to help one understand, and therefore love, the work. Canio, the main character, comes to town with his troupe of actors to put on a play. His friend Tonio is secretly in love with his wife, Nedda. Wait, it gets worse. He tragically finds out, from Tonio, of all people, that Nedda, is in love with Silvio. Canio attempts to find out the identity of his wife’s lover, but fails to do so. Tonio tells Canio that the secret lover will give himself away at the play. And it is in THIS state that Canio must get dressed to go onstage.
“Vesti la Giubba” means put on your jacket, in this case, Canio’s Costume. He must put on his costume for the crowd. Isn’t this in a sense what we all do? Many lie to others and even those who do not, and indeed have the best intentions, must put on a costume for their boss, or co-workers, or clients, or, even worse, family and friends. There is no time to cry or feel sorry for yourself. You must give the crowd what they want: entertainment, laughter, ANYthing that will distract them from their problems, because they too wear the “giubba”.
“Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina. La Gente paga, e rider vuole qua.”
Canio cries, “Put on your costume and powder your face. The people pay and here they want to laugh.”
The aria ends with the one of the emotional experiences in human history.
“Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto! Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!”
“Laugh Clown, at your broken love! Laugh at the pain that poisons your heart.
“Pagliacci” is a play with a play that touches deeply our innermost fears and worrisome problems. We all unfortuanetly are hit with terrible moments but are also expected to “put on a show”. Usually, when it rains it pours, and even getting out of bed is almst impossible. But after all, “the show must go on.”
We are all clowns
Pavarotti, though never the best actor, was certainly the best tenor. His amazng voice and perfect delivery overshadow his character playing. It’s Pavarotti. End of Story.
2:02 starts the best part (the emotional climax), but please watch the whole thing.