Singapore Lyric Opera presents double bill opera at Esplanade Theater

Tom Hawkes shares with Imagine TV Network about the cruelness of comedy and his favorite scene from the double bill opera.

Words by Imagine TV Network

"Great art stands on its own," Tom Hawkes replies, when asked if art imitating life is the reason great works are relevant in today's society.

Image credit: Singapore Lyric Opera

The director of Singapore Lyric Opera's double bill opera, which features Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Giacomo Puccini's Gianna Schicchi, he remarks that one will be able to find modern parallels of the two operas from reading the tabloids.

However, he emphasizes that relevance should not only be placed in the context of the past; relevance can be in the present and its point of reference does not have to be the past.

He elaborates, "I am looking at a beautiful flower in a vase on the desk in front of me; it gives me joy as I look at it and delights my senses when I smell it. Is it relevant? I think so"

Referring to Pagliacci as a "domestic tragedy of jealousy and revenge" but containing much comedy within it, he shares that one character plays on the weakness of the betrayed husband and that jealous scheming led to a double murder.

A dramatic story set in the aftermath of World War II in Southern Italy, Canio leads a company of touring actors and invites residents of a small town to watch their comedy, Pagliaccio. Utilizing the play-within-a-play device, Leconcavallo has the play imitate the characters' lives and tragedy ensues when the lines blur between the two realities.

The title character of Canio/Pagliacci is South Korean tenor Lee Jae Wok and Japanese soprano Sachiko Ito will be his wife, Nedda. Martin Ng, Singaporean baritone, along with British baritone Stephen Gadd and Filipino tenor Lemuel Dela Cruz are also featured.

Image credit: Singapore Lyric Opera

On the other hand, Gianni Schicchi is a black comedy that takes place by the bedside of the deceased Buoso Donati. A collection of three one-act operas, it was inspired by Dante's Inferno and made its theatrical debut in 1918.

"Greed gets its just comeuppance and true love is rewarded," Hawkes remarks. A man of wealth, Donati's death was mourned by his relatives but their hypocritical grief turns into anger after realizing that his considerable estate had been left to charity. Gianni Schicchi, a clever rogue, assists the bereaved relatives in rewarding themselves with a handsome inheritance by finding ways around the dead man's will.

The character of Gianni Schicchi will be played by Adrian Clarke and Marlena Devoe, a soprano from New Zealand, makes her debut with the Singapore Lyric Opera and will perform the well-known aria "O Mio Babbino Caro."

The comedy, Hawkes says, is in the way the grasping family think they can cheat their way into a huge inheritance but is thwarted by a bigger rogue. "There are strong elements of the traditional Italian Commedia dell'arte in these works, more physical in Pagliacci and more sophisticated in Gianni Schicchi." The traditional characters from the first opera also find their counterparts in the young lovers, elderly relatives and clever Schicchi.

Hawkes describes the tragedy of Pagliacci as being complimented by the comedy of Gianni Schicchi but he acknowledges that comedy is very often cruel. We laugh, he says, when a stand-up comic talks disparagingly about his wife or when a circus clown knocks another clown around. "In fact, when I think about it nearly all comedy is at the expense of another human being."

Singapore Lyric Opera’s (SLO) double bill opera featuring Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore from 10th to 12th September 2015. Tickets are available for purchase from SISTIC. Both operas will be sung in Italian with the provision of English and Mandarin subtitles.



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