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Synopsis: The Visitors
An opera in three acts by Carlos Chavez
LIBRETTO by Chester Kallman
Place: A villa in the hills of Tuscany
Time:The fourteenth century
First performed in the Bander Matthews Theater, Columbia University, New York, April 1957 under the name of PANFILO AND LAURETTA
Definitive version first performed in the Teatro Juarez, International Festival of Cervantino, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2 October 1999.
Lauretta/Psyche/Mary Magdalen/Eve  (Soprano)
Elissa/Venus/Procuress/Lilith (Mezzosoprano)
Panfilo/Cupid/Centurion/Adam (Tenor)
Dioneo/Sadducee/Satan (Baritone)
Leader of the Chorus/Monk/Luxury/Physician (Bass)
Act I. The scene is set in the prologue by the Leader of the Chorus and choir. During an outbreak of the plague, four privileged Italians have secluded themselves in a villa. They entertain themselves by putting on plays. The curtain opens on the love triangle between Panfilo, a soldier in love with the young, vain, distracted Lauretta who bearly acknowledges his existence, much to the chagrin of his discarded, older lover Elissa, whom they treat as a servant. Dioneo, the poet and director of their plays, tries to calm the troubled waters by suggesting they rehearse their representation of Cupid and Psyche. Panfilo´s feelings for Lauretta find their expression in the part of Cupid, and Elissa has the opportunity to intervene as Venus. The rehearsal is interupted by the sound of a passing funeral procession. They try to ignore it but as it passes, they become confused, forget their lines and Elissa´s Venus becomes especially violent venting her insult and jealousy. The rehearsal falls to pieces. Their domestic strife and isolation are put to a sudden end by a loud hammering on the door.
Act II. The curtain rises where we left off. The knocking continues. Dioneo and Lauretta are unable to stop Panfilo and Elissa from opening the doors. Enter the monk (Leader of the Chorus), thrilled to find that he has interrupted a rehearsal, he immediatly takes over the group of thespians, casting Dioneo as a sadducee, Panfilo as a centurion, Elissa as Jerusalem´s procuress, Lauretta as Mary Magdalen being sold into prostitution for the first time, and himself as Luxury. Mary is sold to the centurion by the procuress and Luxury, and Panfilo deflowers Lauretta in the climax of their play. The monk has already set the stage for his second ecclesiastic play. Elissa is now Lilith, Adam´s soulless first wife. Satan (Dioneo) tries to tempt her with the apple but she rejects him. He goes to seek Eve. Adam (Panfilo) is surprised when Eve (Lauretta, still in the disheveled, torn costume of Magdalen) enters with her nakedness covered. Wanting to teach him shame, she offers him the half-eaten, forbidden fruit. As he bites into the apple, the monk throws open the doors, letting in the motley crowd from outside. While proclaiming the monk as their savior, he dies suddenly of the plague. As the horror sets in the four characters turn on each other. While the accusations and insults fly in a tone of measured hatred, the crowd takes over the house, their voices raised in an apocalyptic prayer, some kicking the dead body of the monk.
Act III. It is two months later. In the villa’s courtyard, shortly before sunrise, people huddle on the ground; some asleep, others ill or dying. A physician (Leader of the Chorus) makes his rounds, every so often covering his patient’s face, to be borne off silently by two assistants. Dioneo has been tormented by nightmares. He asks after Lauretta who has miraculously survived the plague. Lauretta enters leaning heavily on Elissa, who has lovingly nursed her back to health. She is told that Panfilo has gone to the city. The dawn seems to bring hope, until the Doctor congratulates Lauretta on her pregnancy. In horrified shock, Lauretta now realises that the past events were not, as she was led to believe, a feverish hallucination. After a hysterical outburst, she collapses. Panfilo returns, scornfully rejecting Elissa´s gestures of welcome. Lauretta rebukes him for this. Drained and cynical he tells of his hellish experience in the city.  Elissa points out that the plague has ravaged their safe haven too, and informs him that Lauretta has narrowly escaped death. Lauretta intervenes and declares her love to Panfilo. Reconciled, they leave Elissa feeling betrayed, now not only by Panfilo but also Lauretta. Dioneo takes her aside, in a gentle and light-hearted sermon he teaches her to embrace the past and the future, and to forgive. She notices that he has a raging fever, he confides to her that he has little life left in him. The doctor asks them to entertain the convalescents with a play. They complete their play of Cupid and Psyche. Venus, the goddess of love, forgives them both their disobedience and grants Psyche immortality. Dioneo witnesses their redemption before dying. Their child shall be known as Joy.
Synopsis by Irene Strachan
Alejandro Giacomán de Neymet © 1997-2024 D.R.
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