"Vesti la giubba"

Put on your costume

Put on an act! While gripped by madness,
I no longer know what I’m saying or doing!
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, and they want to laugh.

And if Harlequin steals your Columbina,
laugh, clown, and everyone will applaud!

Turn your distress and tears into jokes,
your sobs and sorrow into a smirk…
Ah! Laugh, clown, at your shattered love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

I Pagliacci  by Giacomo Puccini

In the prologue, Tonio (a hunchback player) promises the audience they will see not just play-acting, but a slice of life. A crowd then gathers in Calabrian village, waiting for the strolling players. The troupe’s leader Canio invites them to a performance later that night. As he heads to the inn, a villager jokingly warns him not to leave his wife Nedda with Tonio. Canio retorts that only happens in the play; such deceit would not be wise in real life. Nedda, though longs to be free of him.

Tonio hears her singing of freedom and declares his love. She rejects him, first taunting him and then striking him with a whip. He moves off, vowing vengeance, but observes Nedda greeting her lover, Silvio, a villager, and agreeing to leave Canio for him. They plan to meet later that night.

Tonio brings Canio to witness the assignation, but Silvio escapes unrecognised. Tonio suggests Nedda’s lover will surely attend the performance and betray himself. Broken-hearted, Canio puts on his makeup and costume, telling himself bitterly he is not a man, only a clown.

The play begins. Columbina's jealous husband Pagliaccio is away, and after rejecting the advances of Taddeo (Tonio), she entertains her lover Harlequin (Beppe).

When Pagliaccio returns, he starts questioning Columbina. Her parting words to the fleeing Harlequin are those Nedda used to Silvio – and Pagliaccio’s stage jealousy becomes Canio’s own fury. While he demands the name of her real-life lover, Nedda tries to keep the mounting emotions contained within the play. She refuses to answer and is stabbed by Canio. Silvio rushes to the stage, too late to save her, and he, too, is killed by Canio, who declares: "The play is done."

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