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“The Comedy Is Finished!” but Tragedy Has the Last Say in Dayton Opera’s I Pagliacci This November

Communications & Media Manager 
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance 
Phone 937-224-3521 x1138 

DAYTON, OH (October 19, 2016) – On Friday, November 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 13 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Thomas Bankston, will present Ruggero Leoncavallo’s poignant opera I Pagliacci. Sung in Italian with English surtitles, this tragic opera is a story of love, betrayal, and heartbreak, hidden beneath the whimsical makeup of a clown. The Principal Sponsor of I Pagliacci is the Opera Guild of Dayton.
A traveling troupe of clowns in sunny southern Italy makes for a cheery setting, without a doubt, but behind the scenes, disaster looms for this troupe of actors. As the opera begins we are reminded in the short opening prologue that the actors we are about to see are, indeed, real people with flesh and blood feelings.  The vibrancy and authenticity of those characters is the hallmark of the verismo (realistic) style of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. This masterwork sweeps the audience along with its grand tunes and gut-punching heartbreak, climaxing in an onstage murder as the players gradually veer from their comic script, building to a final tragedy.

Based on a real-life love triangle murder known to Leoncavallo, I Pagliacci (Clowns) is by far the composer’s best-known work. Countless audiences know Canio’s heart-wrenching aria “Vesti la giubba” (“Put on the costume”), which he sings as he prepares for the final performance in which he will confront his wife, Nedda, who is secretly involved with the young villager, Silvio. Acting on stage for her life, Nedda is unable to calm her enraged husband, who takes his vengeance with a knife in front of the unsuspecting small-town audience. Amidst the final tragedy, the curtain rings down to one of the best-known closing lines in all of opera: “La commedia è finita” – “The comedy is finished!”

Returning to Dayton Opera for the lucky thirteenth time to direct Leoncavallo’s tragic opera is the one and only Gary Briggle.  Briggle was most recently in Dayton this past May to direct Dayton Opera’s stunning world premiere of The Book Collector.  Prior to that directing triumph, Gary’s most recent work with Dayton Opera included both directing and taking the stage to perform in last May 2015’s unforgettable Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the inaugural season of the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights. Briggle was also stage director for the groundbreaking Dayton premiere of Dead Man Walking in February 2015.  His other past performances, either on stage or at the directing helm, include Dayton Opera productions of Candide, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S Pinafore, The Barber of Seville, Porgy and Bess, The Tragedy of Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, and, perhaps most memorable, his engagement in Hansel and Gretel in 2014, where Briggle directed and performed the menacing, albeit convincing, role of the Witch.  Dayton Opera is thrilled to have Gary Briggle back for I Pagliacci this November.

Conducting the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for this production of I Pagliacci is Willie Anthony Waters, who returns to Dayton Opera for the first time in over 20 years!  This production will mark Mr. Water’s third time with Dayton Opera, having last visited the Gem City for Dayton Opera’s 1994 production of Carmen, and before that, the 1984 production of Faust. Since his last visit to Dayton, Maestro Waters has served as Artistic Director for Connecticut Opera, and he has guest-conducted for numerous opera companies and symphonies around the world.  In 1985, Maestro Waters became the first African-American to be named Artistic Director of a major American opera Company, the Greater Miami Opera, now Florida Grand Opera. Dayton Opera welcomes Maestro Waters back to Dayton and looks forward to introducing him to Dayton’s world-class venue, the Schuster Center.

For the lead role of Canio, the head of the troupe of traveling clowns, tenor John Pickle returns to Dayton Opera, having most recently performed the lead role of Lt. B.F. Pinkerton in Dayton Opera’s 2015 intimate production of Madame Butterfly. This performance will mark Pickle’s fourth visit to Dayton in just two years, having made his debut in May 2014 in the role of Radames in Aida, and a visit in January of this year with the Dayton Philharmonic as soloist in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has said of John's vocal talent, "His tenor is so mellifluous that we are captivated whenever he lets his voice out,” and the Delaware News Journal says of a recent performance in I Pagliacci, “John Pickle’s portrayal of the jealous Canio is especially poignant during the aria 'Vesti la giubba,' the tenor’s powerful high notes ringing beautifully throughout the house.” 

Also returning to Dayton Opera is soprano Chloé Olivia Moore, who will sing the captivating role of Nedda, Canio’s wife, whose shocking demise marks the tragic climax of Leoncavallo’s play-within-a-play. Moore returns to Dayton after making her Dayton Opera debut as Leila in the April 2015 production of the exotic and intoxicating The Pearl Fishers. Known for her unique timbre and depth, with unusual flexibility and speed Moore’s voice has been described as having “an amber mellowness like a warm cognac” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle), and Dayton’s own Oakwood Register has characterized her voice as “crystalline, with controlled power.”

Rounding out the lead roles is baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, who returns to Dayton Opera for the third time, with previous appearances as Sharpless in the 2006 production of Madame Butterfly and in the title role in the 2002 production of Don Giovanni.  With a voice described at having a “rich vocal range full of inviting nuance,” MacKenzie has been capturing attention in the dramatic baritone repertoire for the past several years.  MacKenzie will be performing the role of Tonio, the travelling clown who, in an act of deep-seated revenge, betrays Canio by exposing his betrothed’s indiscretions, fueling Canio’s rage that ultimately brings the story to its tragic climax.

Two important supporting roles will be performed by returning singers Kenneth Stavert and Robert Norman. Dayton Opera is always eager to bring back to the Mead Theatre stage its former young Artists-in-Residence, and for this production of I Pagliacci, Dayton Opera is pleased to have 2012-2013 Artist-in-Residence Program alumnus baritone Kenneth Stavert performing the role of Silvio, Nedda’s other love interest.  Audiences may very well remember Stavert from his outstanding performance of Papageno in the 2014 production of The Magic Flute.  Tenor Robert Norman returns to Dayton for his second appearance with Dayton Opera, the first being in the role of Goro in last season’s Madame Butterfly. Norman will be performing the role of Beppe, a member of the troupe who tries to keep the play-within-a-play on track when he sees Canio’s rage exploding on stage. He will return later this season as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio.  

Adding to the vocal richness and helping to set the scene as villagers of this small Italian village are the ever-versatile members of the Dayton Opera Chorus, under the direction and leadership of Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell.  They take the stage once again to add their choral expertise. 

Prior to both Dayton Opera performances of I Pagliacci, Dayton Opera will host a Festa Italiana in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Center.  Audience members are invited to come an hour before scheduled performance times on Friday and Sunday to be transported straight into an Italian celebration, with festive decor, Italian delicacies from Citilites, jugglers and stilt-walkers from Cincinnati Circus Company, and from the DP&L stage, favorite Italian arias and popular and Neapolitan songs, performed by I Pagliacci’s very own Beppe, tenor Robert Norman.  

Want to learn even more about the beauty of I Pagliacci? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf inside the Mead Theatre.

Tickets for I Pagliacci range from $28 to $94 and are available at or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. For more information on tickets, or how to subscribe to the 2016-2017 Excite Season, visit


About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance 
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the community, offering a tremendous variety of performance and education programs and setting a new standard for artistic excellence.  Dayton Performing Arts Alliance performances are made possible in part by Montgomery County and Culture Works, the single largest source of community funds for the arts and culture in the Miami Valley. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance also receives partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created to foster and encourage the development of the arts and to preserve Ohio's cultural heritage. Funding from the Ohio Arts Council is an investment of state tax dollars that promotes economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohio residents.  The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is proud to be one of five performing arts organizations in the country selected to receive a three-year "Music Alive" grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.
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