REVIEW: Tears of a clown, cheers of a crowd
Floods, looming government shutdowns, general gloominess. Friday was a day most people needed a laugh. So send in the clowns, right? Those who went to see the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's production of "I Pagliacci" Friday night at North Dakota State U...
Floods, looming government shutdowns, general gloominess. Friday was a day most people needed a laugh.
So send in the clowns, right?
Those who went to see the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's production of "I Pagliacci" Friday night at North Dakota State University's Festival Concert Hall didn't get many laughs, but they saw a good production about a very sad and angry clown.
Of course, that's the point of Ruggiero's Leoncavallo's opera. A story within a story, it tells the tale of a performing troupe in which the star, the clown Canio, is suspicious of his flirty wife, Nedda. He has good reason but doesn't know she's cheating on him with Silvio, much to the chagrin of the conniving Tonio, who has made a pass at her.
If you're having trouble following (everything is sung in Italian with surtitles above the stage), wait until the second act when Canio plays the clown Paliaccio, Nedda plays Columbine, and, well, all hell breaks loose in the show-within-a-show.
It's actually a fairly straight-forward opera, and this production clocks in around 90 minutes with an intermission. By the end of the first act, there are little surprises about how it all ends, but you'll want to stick around to hear it out.
There is plenty of foreshadowing as Tonio (played by baritone Guido LeBron) takes the stage in a prologue to ask for audience compassion for the performers who may not be as they seem.
"Consider our souls, rather than our strange costumes," he sings.
Indeed, shortly after Canio (tenor David Hamilton) makes his appearance as the popular performer, we catch a glimpse of his hidden rage when a member of the adoring crowd jokes about Nedda's fidelity.
The first act closes with Canio singing the show's tragic signature "Vesti la Giubba" ("Put on the Costume"). He knows he must entertain the crowd, though he's distraught over catching Nedda with her lover. He sobs as the number ends, trying to convince himself to turn his tears into smiles. It's a showstopper, and you feel for the guy, even though you know his fate, and Nedda's, are doomed.
Hamilton isn't going to make people forget early 20th-century opera star Enrico Caruso's version (the first record to sell a million copies), but his emotional portrayal works as a beaten man tormented by his cheating wife.
It's the brutal side of Canio that may be harder for local crowds to take from Hamilton. Nevertheless, he won a standing ovation from the crowd.
Shana Blake Hill shines as the lusty Nedda (and the tarty Columbine in the second-act play) and shares a nice duet with Jeffrey Madison as Silvio.
If you're looking for a laugh Sunday afternoon (the second and final performance), you may want to look elsewhere.
But if you're in the market for powerhouse vocal performances and can handle a little more gloom in your life, bring on the clowns.
If you go
- What: Fargo-Moorhead Opera's "I Pagliacci"
- When: 2 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Festival Concert Hall, North Dakota State University
- Info: Tickets range from $35-$70
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533