Pagliacci 8.5x14 (2)


Lunenburg – Life and art are often intertwined, but seldom as closely as in the opera “Pagliacci” (The Clowns), which will tour SW Nova Scotia this June.

Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s opera about fatal jealousies in a traveling troupe of actors was based on a real-life story:  a case encountered by Leoncavallo’s father, who was a police magistrate in Naples. The incident — concerning a middle-aged actor who murdered his unfaithful actress wife onstage during a performance — clearly inspired Leoncavallo.

His 1892 opera — short, gritty, and boasting one of the great tenor arias of all time (“Vesti la giubba”) — is a perennial audience favourite.

A story of jealousy, betrayal and murder in a troupe of travelling performers, it is Italian verismo (realistic) opera at its most passionate. The opera’s blistering mix of seedy realism and theatrical drama has made it a key part of the Italian operatic repertory.

A troupe of travelling performers arrives in a small Italian town. The hunchback, Tonio, makes advances to his colleague Nedda: she spurns him and he vows vengeance.  Tonio manipulates Nedda’s jealous husband, Canio, into overhearing his wife’s plan to run away with her (unseen) lover. Later, during the performance in front of the villagers, the plot of the play gets a bit too close to real life. As Canio’s character demands to know the name of his wife’s lover, he stops acting: Canio sings of how he rescued Nedda as an orphan, cared for her, loved her, and now she has betrayed him. The audience applauds this brilliant “performance,” not realizing that Canio isn’t acting. Furious, he finally draws his dagger and stabs Nedda, demanding the name of her lover, and she calls on Silvio for help; when Silvio rushes in, Canio stabs him, too.  Shattered, he turns to the audience and proclaims: “La commedia è finita!” (The comedy is ended.)

MCO’s production is in concert, accompanied by Brahm Goldhamer at the piano.  The opera itself is less than 1.5 hours long, and we’ve added a selection of great Italian opera arias as an opener.  And, as always, we’ll have projected English translations so you won’t miss any of the drama.

Making his MCO debut is Halifax tenor Jason Davis in the lead role of Canio, the jealous clown driven to murder.  This has been a favourite role of big-voiced tenors since the opera was written: great interpreters include Caruso, Pavarotti and Domingo.  NB soprano Beth Hagerman returns to MCO as Canio’s wife, Nedda. Also returning are audience favourite Andrew Tees as the bitter hunchback Tonio, Haligonian Joshua Whelan as Nedda’s lover Silvio and Stephen Bell as Beppe. And it wouldn’t be an MCO show without the MCO chorus as the villagers who witness Canio’s crime.

Performances are Sunday June 21 at Th’YARC, Yarmouth at 2.30 p.m.; Tuesday, June 23 at Osprey.Arts Centre at 7.30 p.m.; Thursday, June 25 at Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal at 7.30 p.m., and on Saturday, June 27 at Central United Church, Lunenburg at 7.30 p.m.

Tickets for the Lunenburg performance are $25 ($10 for youth 16 and under at the door only) and are available from Shop on the Corner, Lunenburg, Kinburn Pharmasave, Mahone Bay and Strings’n’Things, Bridgewater or call 902-634-4280 to reserve.  For tickets for the other performances please contact the theatres.

About Maritime Concert Opera 

Maritime Concert Opera is a semi-professional regional opera company based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada which brings in-concert performances of great operas to many communities in Nova Scotia. Founded in 2003, MCO has produced 18 full length operas and more than 34 concerts. While we use professional soloists, our chorus and ethos are rooted firmly in our communities. For more information on MCO, visit its website at

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