The storyline of Pagliacci is unfortunately just as realistic and relevant as when it premiered in 1892. Leoncavallo found his inspiration for the plot in a newspaper crime report, and he wouldn't have to look too hard to find similar cases of violence against women in a newspaper today. Sure the darker aspects of the story are surrounded by more lighthearted theatrical trappings, but at its core, the opera is less about clowns and more about the dangerous emotions of a jealous, abusive husband. Opera Omaha's production of Pagliacci delivered the classic contrast between the players' two worlds - the thin theatrical façade that hides their tumultuous emotions.
The stark and minimal production, which originated at Welsh National Opera, served as a neutral backdrop to the story. The colorful clothes, sets, and emotions of the players were on prominent display in the faded town square. The time period was unclear, perhaps intentionally, but the costumes seemed to hint at 1940s or 1950s. Even in their normal street clothes, the players stand out from the crowd with just a hint more color than the chorus' outfits. Everything seemed designed to focus in on the essential characters and their conflicts.