La Triviata Pursuito
by Fanny Adams (Araminta Carrington)
A salon in the house of Rayoletta, a courtesan. The opera opens with a brisk ensemble between Rayoletta and his friends about the wages of sin in the dazzling l'oreal aria: "Ah, quanto me costi!" (I'm expensive, but I'm worth it!) Early in the festivities, Gaston Murphy arrives with his friend Alfresco Bodi, son of the fabulously wealthy Cowli Bodi. Gaston loses no time in informing the beautiful Rayoletta that Alfresco is languishing with love for him. Rayoletta treats the matter with outward levity, but is soon touched by Bodi's doglike devotion and bulging... uh... wallet.
Yes, well... Alfresco leads the company in a spirited drinking song as a toast to his beloved Rayoletta: "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (Double-jointed boys) which is echoed by Rayoletta. As the guests withdraw into the dining room, Rayoletta is siezed with an aesthetically pleading fit of coughing and sinks gracefully upon the sofa to recover. Alfresco rushes to his side, clearly agitated by his state of health, but Rayoletta assures him that it's nothing serious--"Ah, non piu che affectation" (Know thy subject). Then he asks Alfresco how long he's been pining. Alfresco replies 'a year' and sings the famous "Di quell' amor ch'e palpito" (If I don't get some, I'll get sick) to which Rayoletta replies with "Ah, fors'e lui" (I've heard that before), which includes the famous refrain "Un di felice eterea" (Gimme a break, fella, I'm a working boy), indicating his deeply felt affection for young Alfresco.
Wishing to be alone with his thoughts, Rayoletta shoos Alfresco away. He protests, but Rayoletta's wishes are clearly uppermost among his priorities--"Quel'che linguini e scrape?" (I'm a growing boy), and he leaves for the dining room. Alone at last, Rayoletta contemplates the possibilities. "Ah, fors'e lui che l'anima" he sings tenderly of Alfresco (He's an animal, but stinking rich I hear), raising his own hopes of a lasting relationship with the young man. Then suddenly, as though realizing how hopeless just such a relationship would be, Rayoletta breaks into the poignant "Sempre libera" (I'll have to give up my career, I suppose). With this solo, the act closes.
The scene is a salon in the house now occupied by Alfresco and Rayoletta, who has given up his life of sin an dissipation to live with young Bodi. Alfresco enters, singing of his joy in possessing Rayoletta "De' miei bollenti spiriti" (Hot stuff is my Ray!).
From Tomaso di'Uzzi, Rayoletta's valet and bodyguard, Alfresco learns that Rayoletta is selling his prized possessions-- his baseball cards--to meet the expenses of keeping the house-- "Oh, tecco almeno, corro a Riccardo Suttcliffe!" (Why don't you give him some cash, you cheap twit?). Horrified, Alfresco rushes off to London to raise some money for his beloved.
Rayoletta enters, contemplating an invitation from a friend to an embassy ball that evening. He sings the spritely "Ah, di camelo son greasi" (Not even for a wealthy Arab...) and gives the invitation to Tomaso. Just then a visitor is announced. Rayoletta, thinks it is a business associate, but the new arrival turns out to be Alfresco's father, Cowli Bodi. Rayoletta welcomes him with "Solinga ne' tumultui' (Not tonight, I have a headache -- I thought I told you not to come here), but is filled with a sudden apprehension of separation from the man he loves.
The elder Bodi pleads with Rayoletta on his son's behalf. He tells him of the impending marriage of his daughter, Alfresco's sister -- "Pura sicomme un angelo" (In another month she'll start showing and nobody'll marry her) to a young man who has threatened to break off the match if Alfresco doesn't break off his scandalous relationship with Rayoletta. Rayoletta pleads for mercy: "Non sapete" (Ask me if I care), but finally he yields in a tune of infinite beauty: "Dite alla giovine" (Tell your daughter I know her fiancé); then "Imponete" (Now command me, I love it when you're butch); and finally, "Morro -- la mia memoria" (This is gonna cost you, fella).
Cowli Bodie retired and Rayoletta tells Tomaso to accept the embassy ball invitation for that evening. Tomaso is surprised, but does as Rayoletta asks. Rayoletta then writes to Alfresco, informing him that he is returning to his old life. Finally, he writes to Baron Macklini, offering his services. As he writes, he sings the bittersweet aria of parting "Amami, Alfresco" (I'll die and then they'll be sorry).
Alfresco returns with the money and Tomaso hands his Rayoletta's note. He breaks the seal, reads and is staggered by the news that Rayoletta has left him for Baron Macklini. He is inconsolable until his father enters to console him with "Di Provenze il mar" (I'll buy you dinner and you'll feel better). Alfresco resists at first, still hardly believing that such a betrayal could be possible, but after re-reading Rayoletta's note, he concludes that he's been had. Angry now, he vows to be avenged on the heartless slut and his noble lover: "Il soul chi dal cor ti cancello!" (I'll fix them, you'll see; where's my ICBM?).
The act opens in Rayoletta's bedroom (well, this is what everyone's been waiting for, isn't it?). Rayoletta is practicing his cough when Tomaso enters with a note from Gaston Murphy (remember him?) informing him that Alfresco and the Baron have fought a duel over Rayoletta. The Baron has been mortally wounded, Rayoletta reads, and Alfresco has left the country. Stunned and depressed, Rayoletta begins to cough in earnest, no longer caring if he lives or dies.
The baron is brought to Rayoletta. He sings the splendid farewell aria "Noi siamo zingarelle" (This is your fault) to the swooning Rayoletta. Alfresco rushes in and gathers Rayoletta into his arms and they sing the delightful and duet "Un bel gagliardo" (Taking it out in trade) in a futile attempt to deny the truth -- Rayoletta is dying, but once again, Rayoletta's ill health betrays him and he breaks off in a fit of coughing. Tomaso rushes in to help, but Alfresco, mad with grief, stabs him in maddened grief. Tomaso reprises the Baron's aria "Noi siamo . . . ".
Realizing that there is no hope, Rayoletta begs Alfresco to forget him and settle down with some nice girl, but Alfresco protests that he could never love anyone but Rayoletta -- "Bei soigni ridenti" (A perky arse). In another fit of grief, Alfresco stabs himself with a jewelled stilletto.
At that moment, The elder Bodi rushes in with the news that Alfresco's sister has run off with a radical lesbian feminist who understands this sort of thing. He sings "Alfresco, Alfresco, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l'amore" (It's okay now), but realizes that both his son and Rayoletta are dying, as are the Baron and Tomaso. In despair, Cowli takes poison and with his dying breath joins the others in the justifiably famous "Stiff Quintet" -- "Addio del passato BBC" (Out contracts have run out.
A chorus of revellers floats up from the street and Rayoletta, with his last breath, echoes their song in a travesty of his old gaiety "Gran Dio! morir si giovane" (I'm a serious actor). Gaston rushes in with new contracts promising more money, longer holidays and literate scripts. Scarcely able to believe the scene he finds there, he sings counterpoint to Rayoletta in "La nelli stasi!" (Anyone who can belt a song like that can't have much wrong with his lungs!), but to no avail; Rayoletta and Alfresco are now dying in each others' arms (at last). In a final (honest!) duet, the lovers bid each other farewell: "Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo" (We're a good team, we ought to work together again), and they fall dead.
Gaston leaves quietly, carrying his own contract, as the curtain falls.
-- THE END --