LA VENDETTA / I PAGLIACCI
In front of the curtain, an actor called Tonio announces the performance. He introduces the Danish National Opera and emphasises our aim to portray life as realistically as possible. Humbly, he asks for a mild reception. The curtain opens and the ensemble performs La Vendetta by Asger Hamerik.
Estrella has fallen in love with Orso – to the dismay of her brother Vitollo, as Orso’s father killed their own father many years ago in an ongoing family feud. Vitollo has therefore sworn eternal hate and tries to convince Estrella to separate from her lover. When she declines to let go, Vitollo tries to shoot Orso, but Estrella throws herself in front of her beloved fiancée and dies. Vitollo, realizing that he has killed his sister, takes his own life.
We see the company now in their daily work life and backstage. They arrive at a new venue, set up the stage and prepare for rehearsals. We sense that the opera’s manager and principal singer, Canio, is very jealous, and angrily guards his young wife Nedda. The technicians tease him that singer Tonio might plan an affair with Nedda. Canio angrily warns everybody not to underestimate him. Nedda is frightened by her husband’s behaviour. Tonio approaches her and confesses his love, but she rejects him. Her lover Silvio, who has played Orso in La Vendetta, arranges a secret rendezvous. Tonio, who has been eavesdropping, fetches Canio to catch Silvio and Nedda together, but Silvio is able to escape unrecognized. Canio demands the name of the fugitive, but Nedda refuses. He attacks her, but Beppe disarms him. Canio is left alone to put on his costume and mourn how hard it is to play a clown whilst being heartbroken...
At an open dress rehearsal, the whole company eagerly awaits the performance:
Colombina (Nedda) awaits her lover Arlecchino (Beppe), while her husband Pagliaccio (Canio) is elsewhere. Taddeo (Tonio) confesses his love, but she mocks him. Arlecchino and Colombina dine, and he hands her sleeping pills to get rid of her husband. Pagliaccio arrives, but Arlecchino is able to escape.
Canio tries to continue the play, but loses control and his jealousy takes over. The
crew is impressed by Canio’s emotional performance, without realizing that theatre
has been replaced by reality.
Bit by bit it becomes obvious that no one is acting anymore. Silvio fights his way towards the stage to save Nedda from Canio’s rage, but Canio kills Nedda and her lover.