Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Operamania 101: On with the Motley

The director's cut of The Watchmen came out a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't seen it, you must. It's 28 minutes longer than the original theatrical release and comes with an extra one-two punch of graphic-ness. Being a fan of superhero franchises, I waited for the director's cut than renting the dvd when it first came out and the movie did not disappoint.

So what does a superhero movie have to do with opera?

In The Watchmen, the narrator Rorschach writes in his journal dated October 16, 1985, that The Comedian Eddie Blake, who was murdered, understood the cruel world's behaviour. Blake treated the world like a joke, even becoming a parody of it. But he was the only one. No one else saw the joke and that's why Blake was so lonely.

And so Rorschach tells the joke of Pagliacci the Clown.

I pagliacci is a two-act opera written by Ruggero Leoncavallo. The opera tells of the tragedy of a husband who becomes enraged with jealousy as he suspects his wife of being in love with another member of their commedia dell-arte troupe.

As the heart-broken Canio puts his make up to become Pagliacci the clown, he sings the famous aria, Vesti la giubba. How sad that the clown he is transformed into can not laugh.

Cut to performing on stage with his wife and the downward spiral, as reality merges with acting and canio loses control, demanding to know who Nedda's lover is. Nedda, still in her role as Colombina, swears she will never tell him. By this point, the audience realizes what they are witnessing is no longer a play, but a very real tragedy unfolding right in front of their eyes.

"La commedia รจ finita!", exclaims Pagliacci the clown.

The comedy, sadly, is over.

~ Ling Chan

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