IMMIGRATION AND MOB JUSTICE IN AMERICA

SYNOPSIS

Prologue: Putting it’s faith in “the good people of New Orleans,” The Council of Fifty (ENSEMBLE) impresses upon the city’s Sicilian residents to turn in those who may be involved with “Vendetta societies.”

 

First Scene: DAVID HENNESSY and BILLY O’CONNOR stroll through a sultry evening mist. Hennessy sings an aria of his expansive future plans (“Nothing like the October air in New Orleans”).  The two shake hands and part ways.  Gunfire rends the night; a bloodied, staggering Hennessy curses and fires at his hidden assailants, then calls out to his friend before collapsing. 

Hennessy: They gave it to me, Billy. And I gave it back the best I could. 

O’Connor coolly: Who gave it to you, Dave? 

Hennessy strains to whisper in O’Connor’s ear as the lights fade.

 

Second Scene: In Piccola Palermo, MAMA ROMA, ZIA FRANCESCA, CATARINA, other SICILIAN WOMEN (Ensemble) discuss immigrant life in America. IANIA ROMA enters, asking if they have seen her financè, “Mani.” Mama, and Zia retire for the night; Iania and Catarina bicker about their ties to Sicily, and their future in their new home. Iania is left alone with her thoughts (“But at night, I’m afraid”). 

 

EMMANUELLE POLIZZI, enters hurriedly with a bundle under his arm and manic ideas about his future. Suddenly, a gun drops from Polizzi’s bundle, terrifying Iania. He calms her, and they sing to each other about their fears, hopes, and how they must cling to each other to survive (“With only you can I live”). 

 

Third Scene: O’Connor and a few policemen (Ensemble) barge into Charity Hospital, carrying a mortally wounded Hennessy. Nurses (Ensemble) begin to attend to the Chief. WILLIAM PARKERSON enters and tries to get Hennessy to publicly identify the assailants. Hennessy brushes him off. 

 

MARGARET HENNESSY  enters, and rushes to her son’s bedside.  They share a tender moment as Parkerson and O’Connor retreat to a corner of the room. Margaret clasps her rosary, pondering the Mater dolorosa, and watching her son (“What can a mother say?”). Overheard by Hennessy and his mother, Parkerson and O’Connor discuss the possible motives of the assailants. They determine that the Sicilians are responsible and they must pay the price.

 

Fourth Scene: Back in Piccola Palermo, Polizzi is agitated. Iania tries to calm him and sings a Sicilian lullaby.  O’Connor and a few policemen (Ensemble)  burst into their apartment, arrest Polizzi, and threaten Iania. As they take him away, Mama and the Sicilian women pray to St. Joseph for protection.  Stunned, Iania weeps and is swept up in their prayer.

Fifth Scene: Orleans Parish Prison. Bored Policemen (Ensemble) gossip about the Chief’s shooting while O’Connor confronts Polizzi, demanding information about the Mafia. Polizzi accuses O’Connor of corruption, saying he deserves equal suspicion. O'Connor recounts his dream about the eradication of Sicilian immigrants (“Last night I had a beautiful dream”). 

 

Iania enters to beg for Polizzi’s release. O’Connor claims that Polizzi is a tool of the Mafia and he will doom the future for both of them. She agrees to bargain, taking the police back to her tenement to hand over Polizzi’s gun. Polizzi catches a glimpse of Iania as she leaves;  O'Connor says that she has betrayed him. Refusing to accept it,  Polizzi wonders if he will ever be free to build a life (“I will wait”).
 

Sixth Scene: Hennessy, on his deathbed (“In, out… clumsy lugs”). He flashes back to his father’s similarly violent death, which left young Hennessy and his mother destitute. By keeping the identity of his murders to himself, he will attain the most power through the memory of his deeds.  He dies, and the scene transforms into...

 

Hennessy’s funeral - the largest the city has ever seen; the congregation sings the Requiem. Margaret reflects on the death of her child (“Mary watched her child on a tree”).  Parkerson’s eulogy shifts the tone; there are cries for retribution and the congregation sings the Dies irae. While Mama and Zia reprise their prayer to St. Joseph, Iania and Margaret intone the In Paradisum, praying for peace after death. 

 

Seventh Scene: Iania sees the path before Polizzi - New Orleans will not rest until Sicilian blood flows. She questions the wisdom of her loyalty, resolving to strike out from the city without him (“The hateful hands of the clock stare me down”).

 

News spreads that the Sicilians have been acquitted, and the anger of the city runs hot. A Sicilian victory song rings out, loud and triumphant; Parkerson and O'Connor whip the citizens of New Orleans into frenzy. the musics clash violently.

 

Still at the Parish Prison, Polizzi hears the sound of an approaching crowd. Above it, however, he hears Iania’s lullaby and he calls out to her. Her music is drowned out as the mob breaks into the prison. Men with guns (Ensemble) - O’Connor among them - execute Polizzi in his cell. 

 

Epilogue: The Ensemble sings a lilting song about tides, light, and power. They engage in a call and response with four principals:  O’Connor will continue on his path of consuming power; Margaret wanders the chapels of the city, looking for God; Parkerson engages on a national speaking tour to bear testimony to the lynching. Iania reflects on the horror that has destroyed her life. She wonders if Mani’s soul will now fly to new realms and if he will be as unwelcome there as he was on earth. She hopes he will find the Golden Doors of a new world, which was promised to both of them.
 

The entire cast sings the final lines of Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus”:


With silent lips, "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 

 

END OF THE OPERA