Prologue

The following is the original Italian text of the opening prologue from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera I Pagliacci or The Players. Here, the issues of the decentralization of authorship are explored in the the aria of Tonio the clown, functioning as a exposition whereby the themes and issues of the opera are introduced, by announcing: "Io sono il Prologo (I am the Prologue)." In doing so, he steps into the role of establishing a source of communication with the audience. Tonio explains not only the role of the author in the story about to be presented, but emphasizes the fact that we, as the audience, do have a part in the process of narration. This is most evident in the line:

"We wear, for we are men
Of flesh and bone, like you, breathing
The same air of this orphan world."

Authorship, therefore, is like a bridge between the interplay of the self and reality.


Prologo

(Tonio in costume da Taddeo corne nello commedia, passa a traversa al telone)

Tonio

Si pu┌? Si pu┌?
Signore! Signori!
Scusatemi se da sol mi presento.
Io sono il Prologo.
Poich╚ in scena ancor
le antiche maschere mette l'autore,
in parte ei vuol riprendere
le vecchie usanza,
e a voi di nuovo inviami.
Ma non per dirvi,
come pria: "Le lacrime che noi versiam son false!
Degli spasimi e dei nostri martir
non allarmatevi!"
No, no. L'autore ha cercato invece
pingervi uno squarcio di vita.
Egli ha per massima sol che l'artista
╚ un uom,
e che per gli uomini
scrivere ei deve.
Ed al vero ispiravasi.
Un nido di memoria
in fondo a l'anima
cantava un giorno,
ed ei con vere lacrime scrisse,
e i singhiozzi il tempo
gli battevano!

Dunque, vedrete amar
si come s'amano
gli esseri umani,
vedrete de l'odio i tristi frutti.
Del dolor gli spasimi,
urli di rabbia, udrete,
e risa ciniche!
E voi, piuttosto che le nostre
povere gabbane d'istrioni,
le nostr'anime considerate,
poich╚ siam uomini di carne e d'ossa,
e che di quest'orfano
mondo al pari di voi spiriamo l'aere!
Il concetto vi dissi,
or ascoltate com'egli ╚ svolto.
(gridando verso la scena)

Andiam, incominciate!

Prologue

(Tonio appears through the curtain, dressed as Taddeo in the style of the commedia dell'Arte)

Tonio

Please? Will you allow me?
Ladies! Gentleman! Excuse me
If I appear thus alone. I am the Prologue.
Since our author is reviving on our stage
The masks of ancient comedy,
He wishes to restore for you, in part,
The old stage customs, and once more
He sends me to you.
But not, as in the past, to reassure you,
Saying, "The tears we shed are false,
So do not be alarmed by our agonies
Or violence!" No! No!
Our author has endeavoured, rather
To paint for you a slice of life,
His only maxim being that the artist
Is a man, and he must write
For men. Truth is his inspiration.
Deep-embedded memories stirred one day
Within his heart, and with real tears
He wrote, and marked the time with sighs!

Now then, you will see men love
As in real life they love, and you will see
True hatred and its bitter fruit. And you will hear
Shouts both of rage and grief, and cynical laughter.
Mark well, therefore, our souls,
Rather than the poor players' garb
We wear, for we are men
Of flesh and bone, like you, breathing
The same air of this orphan world.
This, then, is our design. Now give heed
To its unfolding.
(shouting towards the stage)

On with the show! Begin!

   


From English translation of original Italian text, EMI (U.S.) Ltd., 1954