November 22nd, 2011

piranha - the phantom of the circus.

Opera San Jose: La voix humaine & Pagliacci

Last night was a double feature at Opera San Jose. Two for the price of one! This is good, right? Well…

La voix humaine or, The Human Voice

This modern French opera was rather dreadful, if you ask me. A desperate, clinging woman lounges around her tiny apartment, desperately trying to talk to her lover, who is leaving her after five years to marry another woman. She’s seriously unbalanced, mentally – she’s already attempted suicide and failed, but as the opera drags on and on I kept wishing she’d just go ahead and try again. It was like reading some emo-teen’s livejournal – nobody likes that, right??? No fault of the singer, who I think did a fine job – I just didn’t give a hoot about her character.


Luckily, Ruggero Leoncavallo swoops in with Pagliacci and makes everything all better. This dark tale of a murderous clown determined to destroy his wife and her lover is one of the best operas ever. I love it. I mean, “Vesti la giubba” is one of the greatest arias ever written. It’s so short, and yet so perfect. Just look at the sorrow and pain in these lyrics (a translation stolen from Wikipedia):

Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary... make an effort!
Bah! Are you not a man?
You are a clown!

Put on your costume,
powder your face.
The people pay to be here, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!

Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

The singer tonight sang his heart out during the aria, and it was just beautiful. I could watch this opera a million times.