Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera “Pagliacci” (Clowns) was a theme that he explored in multiple drawings. In the opera, Canio, the head of a troupe of comedians, finds out that his wife Nedda has an affair with the farmer Silvia. During the performance he kills both his wife and her lover.
‘Vesti la giubba’ (‘Put on the costume’), the most moving aria that is sung at the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife’s infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because “the show must go on” (here in a recording from 1902). Canio’s pain exemplifies the entire notion of the “tragic clown”: the clown who weeps within (usually because of a heart broken by unrequited love) as he dons his make-up to make the people laugh—who have paid their money to laugh.
This week, we celebrate Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia in the fourth century BCE. This is the most joyous of the Jewish holidays – look out for clowns and other creative and fun dress-ups! Did I mention that it was a woman, Esther, who defied all odds and saved the Jewish people?
Purim Sameach and
all best wishes,
Rachel Stern, Director and CEO
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artwork Fritz Ascher ©2019 Bianca Stock, Photo Malcolm Varon