Opera Festival of Chicago presents
Thursday, August 5, 7pm & 9pm
1807 S Allport St
The year is 1910. It has been 26 years since the Nacquet Act has been passed in France and divorce legalised. However, it is still not commonplace and in this year only 14,261 couples across the whole of France separate. Unlike now where 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce or separation, it was still taboo.
Puccini’s plot focuses on one couple that would have been better off as one of those 14,261 that filed for divorce. The grief and trauma associated with losing their young son has ripped our protagonists Michele and Giorgetta apart, so much so that Michele feels that Giorgetta’s love has turned to loathing. However, the reality of the situation is that this couple have gone through a life-changing experience and have not found a way to overcome this together. As mechanisms to cope with the loss of a child Michele has retreated into himself and his work, and Giorgetta has sought distraction from her reality by commencing an affair with one of the barge workers – Luigi.
We join the action as the sun is setting in Paris. The stevedores are close to the conclusion of their working day and Giorgetta asks Michele if she is allowed to bring wine to the workers to reward them for their efforts. Although Michele agrees to this he refrains from joining them due to Giorgetta’s apparent lack of affection for him.
As well as navigating the trauma of losing a son, our unhappy couple are also dealing with financial hardship. They seemingly cannot afford to keep on all of their workers any longer and commence a conversation as to who should be let go.
They are not the only characters in this opera without vices or marital issues, and we swiftly learn at the appearance of La Frugola (the wife of one of the stevedores called Talpa) that she scavenges across Paris, and Talpa drinks in order to escape the reality that he is shackled with Frugola for a wife.
Amongst the post-work socialising it becomes quickly apparent that Luigi and Giorgetta are magnetised to each other. Not only do they herald from the same part of Paris, but both long to return to a life on dry land there.
At the conclusion of this shared declaration of hope from Luigi and Giorgetta the stevedores leave the ship and only Luigi remains in order to request that Michele dismisses him. Giorgetta is surprised by this request, but when they steal a moment alone Luigi declares that it is simply too painful having to share her with Michele. They arrange to meet later that night, and Giorgetta will signal to Luigi that the coast is clear by lighting a match. Luigi then departs leaving Giorgetta alone on the boat with Michele.
Meanwhile, Michele’s suspicions as to his wife’s behaviour are growing. Why is she being so cold with him and wonders what could have happened to change her attitude towards him so strongly. After a terse conversation between himself and Giorgetta, Michele is left alone on the deck pondering which man could have stolen her affections. Whilst doing so Michele lights a match, which Luigi, from the shore, mistakes as Giorgetta’s signal. He boards the barge and is greeted by Michele who immediately sees red, confronts Luigi and forces him to admit that he loves Giorgetta whilst strangling him.
Giorgetta then returns to Michele’s side. She has decided to apologise to him for her behaviour earlier. Michele invites her to draw close to him, but as she does he opens his cloak and reveals Luigi’s dead body.
A complimentary pre-performance behind the scenes discussion with Roger Pines prior to each performance.
6:00pm for the 7:00pm performance
8:00pm for the 9:00pm performance
This is a small setting for the pre-performance discussion with limited seating available. Please RSVP in advance by clicking here.