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The saga of a jilted lover and a jealous husband, Pagliacci tells the tale of Canio, the leader of a traveling
commedia dell’arte troupe. Canio is the clown who must laugh, and make others laugh, while masking
his grief after learning that his wife Nedda has betrayed him with another man. In the end, art meets
tragedy in a rage of passion and jealousy. Run-time approx. 90 minutes including one 25-minute intermission.


Christian Reif

Stage Director
Chuck Hudson

Assistant Conductor
Christopher James Ray*

Chorus Master
Christopher James Ray

Children’s Chorus courtesy
of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus
and Vivace Youth Chorus

*Conducts Nov. 20 & 25 performances

Set Designer
Andrea Bechert

Costume Designer
Cathleen Edwards

Costume Director
Alyssa Oania

Lighting Designer
Kent Dorsey

Wig & Makeup Designer
Christina Martin


Role 11/17, 11/18, 11/20, 11/25, 11/30, 12/2
Nedda Maria Natale
Silvio Emmett O’Hanlon
Beppe Mason Gates
Canio Cooper Nolan
Tonio Anthony Clark Evans

Opera San José Orchestra, Chorus, Dancers and Supers

*Casting subject to change without notice

Synopsis: Pagliacci

ACT I, A village in Southern Italy, c. 1900
A troupe of commedia dell’arte actors is thrown out of town because their lead actor Canio neglected to pay for a permit to perform. An Actor introduces himself to the audience as the Prologue, saying that the story we are witnessing is a scene from real life played by actors expressing genuine human feelings (“Si può?” – A word?). As he speaks, he dresses himself in the costume of Tonio the Hunchback to become one of the players himself.

The traveling troupe parades into the church square of another village on a summer feast day. Canio invents the evening’s scenario around the troubles of his own character, Pagliaccio. A villager invites the actors to a tavern before the performance; both Canio and Beppe accept while Tonio decides to remain behind, causing another villager to joke that Tonio the Hunchback wants to seduce Canio’s wife, Nedda. Canio warns everyone that while he may play a cuckold on-stage in real life he will not tolerate other men making advances on Nedda (“Un tal gioco, credete me”-Such a game is better not played). As church bells ring for a processional Vespers of the Virgin Mary, the men head off to the tavern leaving Nedda and the rest of the troupe behind.

Troubled by her husband’s suspicion (“Quel fammia avea nel guardo”- What flames were in those glances), Nedda muses on the freedom of the birds overhead (“Stridono lassù” – Birds without number). Tonio eavesdrops and then confesses his love to her, but Nedda mocks his advances. When he becomes violent with her she defends herself, and Tonio leaves furiously uttering an oath of vengeance.

Nedda’s secret lover Silvio arrives from another village and urges her to run away with him after tonight’s performance. Nedda eventually agrees to his proposal. Tonio overhears the two lovers and hurries off to inform Canio, who bursts in on the pair just as they are kissing farewell with the words ‘Til tonight! And then I’ll be yours forever!” Silvio escapes before Canio can identify him and Nedda refuses to divulge her lover’s name. Canio threatens her with a knife, but Beppe stops him from becoming violent in public. Tonio advises Canio to be patient since the guilty lover will surely reveal himself at the performance that night. Consumed by Nedda’s infidelity, Canio releases his torment that he must play the clown while his heart is truly breaking (“Vesti la giubba” – Put on your costume).

Intermission (25 minutes)

Silvio hides among the villagers who assemble to see the commedia, performed by Canio, Nedda, Tonio, and Beppe, which bears a striking resemblance to that afternoon’s actual events: While her husband, Pagliaccio, is away, Colombina’s secret lover, Arlecchino, serenades her (“O, Colombina”). Her buffoonish servant Taddeo returns from the market and tries to court her as well. Tonio, improvising his text as Taddeo, expresses his malice as he sings of Colombina’s purity and innocence. His sarcasm is not lost on Nedda who is on stage with him, nor on Canio who awaits his entrance in the wings. Colombina mocks Taddeo and rejects his advances, and Arlecchino sends the audience of villagers into peals of laughter by chasing him off the stage.

The sweethearts plot to poison Pagliaccio when Taddeo bursts in to warn them that the suspicious Pagliaccio is about to return. Arlecchino slips out of the window but not before hearing Colombina’s parting words to her lover, which Canio recognizes from their real-life argument that afternoon. Enraged, Canio improvises a new scenario, demanding that Colombina reveal her lover’s name. Nedda responds as Colombina, denying everything. Blurring the line between illusion and reality, Canio answers that his face is pale not from the stage make-up but from the shame his wife has brought upon him (“No! Pagliaccio non so!” – No! I am Pagliaccio no longer!”).

The crowd is confused but impressed by the truth of the acting. Nedda finally steps out of character, standing up for herself by swearing that she will never reveal the name of her lover. Too late, the crowd realizes that the players are not acting, as Canio stabs Nedda in a fit of rage. Revealing her lover’s name, Nedda cries out for Silvio, who rushes toward the stage only to be met by Canio’s blade. Amongst the carnage, Tonio becomes the Actor of the Prologue once again, addressing the real audience with the closing lines of the tragedy (The play is over!).

Introduction to Opera

At 6:30 before evening performances and at 1:30 before matinees, a free talk will be presented in the California Theatre that will acquaint you with the composer’s life, his place in the history of opera, the story and its characters. If you are attending the 1:30 or 6:30 Introduction, you must be ticketed for that day’s performance; and your ticket must be torn as you enter the building.

Free Previews

A one-hour preview for each 2018-19 production (except Moby-Dick) is presented free of charge in the third floor rehearsal hall of the California Theatre, located at 345 S. First Street. Please enter via Market Street entrance and take elevator to third floor. The preview for Moby-Dick will take place at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (venue change for just this production) located at 560 S. First Street in San Jose. Moderated by GD Larry Hancock, the previews includes a lecture and performances by OSJ artists. Dates for previews are as follows:

  • The Abduction from the Seraglio: September 4, 2018
  • Pagliacci: November 6, 2018
  • Moby-Dick: January 29, 2019
  • Madama Butterfly: April 2, 2019

All previews begin at 12 noon.

Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series

Increase your understanding of opera and enjoy upcoming Opera San José performances all the more by attending one of longtime OSJ subscriber Bradford Wade’s FREE previews. Dates for Pagliacci lecture talks are listed below. For more information about the Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series and/or to RSVP, email .

Opera at your Doorstep Lecture: Leoncavallo’s  Pagliacci
Thursday, Nov. 8, 7:30-9:00 pm
Sheppard Mullin Law Firm
379 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto
To RSVP for a no-host pre-talk dinner with the speaker, e-mail
No reservation is required for the talk.
For more information, send an e-mail to

Opera at your Doorstep Lecture: Leoncavallo’s  Pagliacci
Monday, Nov. 12, 7:00-8:30 pm
GRA room, The Terraces of Los Gatos
800 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos
No reservation is required for the talk.
For more information, send an e-mail to




City of San Jose