Tonight We Improvise

Last updated
Tonight We Improvise
Written by Luigi Pirandello
CharactersDoctor Hinkfuss
Lead Actress/Mommina
Lead Actor/Rico Verri
Character Actress/Signora Ignazia
Old Comic Actor/Signor Palmiro
Date premieredJanuary 25, 1930 (1930-01-25)
Place premiered Königsberg
Original language Italian
Series Six Characters in Search of an Author , Each In His Own Way
Genre Tragicomedy
SettingA theatre
Contemporary Sicily

Tonight We Improvise (Italian : Questa sera si recita a soggetto [ˈkwesta ˈseːra si ˈrɛːtʃita a ssodˈdʒɛtto] ) is a play by Luigi Pirandello. [1] Like his play Six Characters in Search of an Author , it forms part of his "trilogy of the theatre in the theatre." It premiered in 1930 in a German translation in Königsberg, and had its first Italian performance in Turin on April 14, 1930.

It has been translated into English by Samuel Putnam (1932), Marta Abba (1959), and J. Douglas Campbell and Leonard Sbrocchi (1987).

Plot synopsis

A company of actors under the direction of Doctor Hinkfuss is to present an improvisation on Pirandello's novella Leonora, Addio! Hinkfuss explains that his plan for having the actors improvise, as the spirit moves them, is an attempt to allow the work to stage itself, with characters rather than actors. However, his actors are frustrated at the conflict inherent in Hinkfuss's instructions: to completely become their characters, but also to come when they are called and adapt themselves to Hinkfuss's decisions about what should happen when.

After some argument between the actors and Hinkfuss, the play begins. It concerns the La Croce family – Signor Palmiro, a sulfur mine engineer, his forceful wife Signora Ignazia, and their four daughters, Mommina, Totina, Dorina, and Nenè – who have moved from Naples to the more socially conservative Sicily. The family is popular with a local company of air force officers, who love the mother and flirt with the daughters; however, this behavior earns the family the disapproval of the rest of the town, as well as of Rico Verri, one of the other officers.

One night, Signor Palmiro is brought home bleeding by a cabaret singer whom he loves, after having been stabbed defending her honor, and dies. This having coincided with a fight among the actors as to how much they should keep to the script, the Old Comic Actor's entrance is ruined, and the actors, angry at Hinkfuss's meddling, throw him out of the theatre.

The next scene takes place years later. Mommina has married Rico Verri, who is mad with jealousy over what he imagines to be her sexual history with the other officers. After he abuses her and leaves, Mommina – guided by the offstage voices of her mother and sisters – finds a handbill in his coat advertising a production of Il Trovatore in which Totina, now a famous opera singer, is performing. She describes the theatre to her two children, who have never seen it, and tells them the story of the opera, singing snatches of it, with her heart beating ever faster and her breath growing ever weaker, until she sings Manrico's line in the Act IV farewell duet – Leonora, addio! – and falls dead.

The other actors end the play, running on to find Mommina dead. They believe that the Lead Actress has fainted, but she gets up, and after the actors insist on written parts, Doctor Hinkfuss, who has returned, apologizes to the audience for the night's irregularities.

Related Research Articles

Luigi Pirandello Italian writer

Luigi Pirandello was an Italian dramatist, novelist, poet, and short story writer whose greatest contributions were his plays. He was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature for "his almost magical power to turn psychological analysis into good theatre.". He was an Italian nationalist and supported Fascism in a moderate way, giving his Nobel Prize medal to the Fascist government to be melted down for the Abyssinia Campaign. Pirandello's works include novels, hundreds of short stories, and about 40 plays, some of which are written in Sicilian. Pirandello's tragic farces are often seen as forerunners of the Theatre of the Absurd.

<i>La bohème</i> opera by Giacomo Puccini

La bohème is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini between 1893 and 1895 to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème (1851) by Henri Murger. The story is set in Paris around 1830, and shows the Bohemian lifestyle of a poor seamstress and her artist friends.


Mignon is an 1866 opéra comique in three acts by Ambroise Thomas. The original French libretto was by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Goethe's 1795-96 novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. The Italian version was translated by Giuseppe Zaffira. The opera is mentioned in James Joyce's "The Dead" (Dubliners) and Willa Cather's The Professor's House. Thomas's goddaughter Mignon Nevada was named after the main character.

<i>La forza del destino</i> Opera by Giuseppe Verdi

La forza del destino is an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller's Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 10 November 1862 O.S..

Six Characters in Search of an Author is an Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, written and first performed in 1921. An absurdist metatheatrical play about the relationship among authors, their characters, and theatre practitioners, it premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome to a mixed reception, with shouts from the audience of "Manicomio!" ("Madhouse!") and "Incommensurabile!" ("incomprehensible!"), a reaction to the play's illogical progression. Reception improved at subsequent performances, especially after Pirandello provided for the play's third edition, published in 1925, a foreword clarifying its structure and ideas.

Marta Abba Italian actress

Marta Abba was an Italian actress.

<i>The Light in the Piazza</i> (musical)

The Light in the Piazza is a musical with a book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Based on the 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer, the story is set in the 1950s and revolves around Margaret Johnson, a wealthy Southern woman, and Clara, her daughter, who is developmentally disabled due to a childhood accident. The two spend a summer together in Italy. When Clara falls in love with a young Italian man, Margaret is forced to reconsider not only Clara's future, but her own deep-seated hopes and regrets as well.

Ferdinando Paer

Ferdinando Paer was an Italian composer known for his operas and oratorios. He was of Austrian descent and used the German spelling Pär in application for printing in Venice, and later in France the spelling Paër.

Alida Valli Italian actress

Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg, better known by her stage name Alida Valli, was an Italian actress who appeared in more than 100 films, including Mario Soldati's Piccolo mondo antico, Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido, Luchino Visconti's Senso, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, Georges Franju's Les Yeux sans Visage, and Dario Argento's Suspiria.

<i>The Servant of Two Masters</i> 1746 play by Carlo Goldoni

The Servant of Two Masters is a comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni written in 1746. Goldoni originally wrote the play at the request of actor Antonio Sacco, one of the great Truffaldinos in history. His earliest drafts had large sections that were reserved for improvisation, but he revised it in 1789 in the version that exists today. The play draws on the tradition of the earlier Italian commedia dell'arte.

Daniela Dessì

Daniela Dessì was an Italian operatic soprano, born in Genoa.

Giorgio Strehler

Giorgio Strehler was an Italian opera and theatre director.

<i>Haste to the Wedding</i>

Haste to the Wedding is a three-act comic opera with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by George Grossmith, based on Gilbert's 1873 play, The Wedding March. The opera was the most ambitious piece of composition undertaken by Grossmith.

Giuseppe Patroni Griffi

Giuseppe Patroni Griffi was an Italian playwright, screenwriter, director, and author.

<i>The Astonished Heart</i>

The Astonished Heart, described by the author as "a tragedy in six scenes", is a short play by Noël Coward, one of ten that make up Tonight at 8.30, a cycle written to be performed across three evenings. One-act plays were unfashionable in the 1920s and 30s, but Coward was fond of the genre and conceived the idea of a set of short pieces to be played across several evenings. The actress most closely associated with him was Gertrude Lawrence, and he wrote the plays as vehicles for them both.


Liolà is an Italian stage play written by Luigi Pirandello in 1916, which takes place in 19th century Sicily. The original text was composed in the Sicilian dialect of Agrigento. The title character is a middle-aged single father by choice. He has three young boys, each by a different mother. Liolà is a free-spirit who wanders from town to town, looking to connect with nature, and to create children without having any ties to the mother. He tries to sell one of his boys to Zio Simone, a crabby elderly man, who becomes offended by the offer. He then has an encounter with Mita, a former lover, who tells him that he is the father of her unborn child. Pirandello immortalizes Liolà as an ideal father, and in certain scenes in the play, Liolà shows a lot of love and affection to his children.

Right You Are , also translated as It Is So , is an Italian drama by Luigi Pirandello. The play is based on Pirandello's novel La signora Frola e il signor Ponza, suo genero.

<i>Commedia dellarte</i> early form of professional theatre originating in Italy

Commedia dell'arte was an early form of professional theatre, originating from Italy, that was popular in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century. Commedia dell'arte was formerly called Italian comedy in English and is also known as commedia alla maschera, commedia improvviso, and commedia dell'arte all'improvviso. Commedia is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century and was responsible for the advent of actresses and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. A commedia, such as The Tooth Puller, is both scripted and improvised. Characters' entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia dell'arte are the lazzi. A lazzo is a joke or "something foolish or witty", usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine. Another characteristic of commedia dell'arte is pantomime, which is mostly used by the character Arlecchino (Harlequin).

Sebastiano Lo Monaco is an Italian actor of theatre, cinema and television.

"Tu che le vanità" is an aria for soprano from the first scene of the final act of Verdi's opera Don Carlo. It is sometimes performed in recitals and featured in anthologies for dramatic sopranos. Sopranos also use it as an audition piece, as it displays the singer's high and low registers, forte and pianissimo volumes, legato bel canto singing technique, and several dramatic emotions such as reverence, longing, and resignation.