Anton Coppola, "Sacco and Vanzetti", opera. The Libretto

VANZETTI, Bartolomeo (1888-1927)SACCO, Nicola (1891-1927)Music. OperaMusic. Musical creationsArt: musicMusic. Classical musicTRESCA, Carlo (1879-1943). Anarchiste italo-américainCOPPOLA, Anton (Antonio) (21/03/1917+)

Anton Coppola is both composer and librettist for Sacco & Vanzetti. The first aspect of this work that strikes the listener is the language. It is set in both Italian and English and alternates between the two depending upon the dramatic action. This becomes very interesting with an understanding of traditional operatic language. Italian has been the base language of opera for centuries. It is the "language of opera" and tradition has only occasionally moved to the vernacular. In Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian and English serve in both of these functions.

First, for the opera as a whole, it opens in English and a large portion of the text is in English. Thus English has the effect of being the "base language" and Italian seems to be a vernacular excursion.

Second, assuming that most of its listeners will be English speakers, English is both the base language and the vernacular.

Third, the title characters are at odds with this because English is the "foreign" base language for them and Italian is their vernacular.

The work begins with a prologue—a tradition extending back to the ancient Greek tragedies and continuing to the present day. A prologue’s function is to set the stage, to provide important background information, and sometimes to create an atmosphere or attitude with which the dramatic action proceeds. One or more allegorical figures usually deliver the prologue. In opera, prologues have roots in the earliest forms of the genre written by Monteverdi and Lully and were revived by Leoncavallo in Pagliacci and Berg’s Lulu. Another commonality within this traditional framework begun by the Greeks is the genre of tragedy.

In the Preface to the libretto, Coppola describes his opera as "a presentation of the circumstances and the characters involved in a dramatic tragedy." In Sacco & Vanzetti, the characters in the prologue are Carlo Tresca, a Protestant Minister, a Roman Catholic Priest and a congregation of worshippers.

Carlo Tresca was a leader of the Italian Anarchist Movement in America. His ghost functions as the narrator throughout the entire opera, introducing and commenting on characters and situations as they arise. As expected, the Prologue provides the necessary background, in this case the prevailing atmosphere, to the story.

It opens in a Protestant church in Boston around 1850 and shifts to a Catholic church in about 1890. We are shown the suspicion, hatred, and fear of those already in America toward those newly arrived. This darkness of humanity stands in contrast to the seeming piety of the religious faithful. Those forty years have not changed anything. Tresca forewarns us that they will be no different in the 1920s and beyond saying (in French), "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The structure of a traditional libretto is sometimes three acts but most often four. Sacco & Vanzetti has two acts.

During the first half of an opera, in this case Act One, we are exposed to the characters and their pasts, and we experience the events leading to the climax of the action. Act One of Sacco & Vanzetti introduces the title characters and the pertinent events such as the Slater-Morrill Shoe Factory robbery, and their arrest and trial.

The second half of an opera, in this case Act Two, usually contains the climax and denouement. In Sacco & Vanzetti, we witness the aftermath of the trial, the execution and the cremation.

PROLOGUE

The Protestant church (1850), The Catholic church (1890)

ACT ONE

Scene I

Sacco and Vanzetti, Monologues and Duet (June 1917)

Scene II

A busy street corner in downtown Boston (June 1919)

Scene III

The Libertarian Club

Scene IV

The Slater-Morrill Shoe Factory (April 15, 1920)

Scene V

The Arrest (May 5, 1920)

Scene VI

The Anarchist Club (August 1920)

Scene VII

The Courtroom Room (May/June 1921)

ACT TWO

Scene VIII

Moore in prison with Sacco and Vanzetti (June 1924)

Scene IX

Rosina’s faith is confirmed (June 1925)

Scene X

The Boston Matrons (January 1926)

Scene XI

The verdict is debated: Governor Fuller’s Advisory Commitee (1927)

Scene XII

The Vanzetti farmhouse in Italy (August 1, 1927)

Scene XIII

The execution (August 22, 1927)

Scene XIV

The cremation (April 27, 1917)

Brad Hull