Leoncavallo Opera I Pagliacci

Classical Music / Opera 

Leoncavallo's 'I Pagliacci' in Two Acts   

I Pagliacci, an Italian opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo. Pagliacci opera plot summary, character list, and other Pagliacci opera information.
Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (The Clowns), a tragic opera that cultivated a new style in the late 19th-century Italian literary movement called verismo, meaning 'realism' or 'truthful' in the late 19th-century. Invariably linked with realism along with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci is Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.       

Composed: 1892
Librtto: Ruggero Leoncavallo
First Performance: Teatro dal Verme, Milan, May 21, 1892
Language: Italian 
Setting: Near Montalto, Calabria
Time: Feast of the Assumption, 1865-70

The 2-act opera carries 19th-century Italian literary movement verismo or 'realism.' 

Pagliacci Brief Summary

Leoncavallo's opera I Pagliacci ('The Clowns') refers to a small group of strolling players. It follows their loves and jealousies which spill over into their stage performance, climaxing in murder. Even though the character knows that his wife has betrayed him, the poor clown has to go on stage and continue to make people laugh.   

Despite simmering tensions, the performance goes ahead and the performers each take up their characters, all mimicking  their real-life situations. It’s all too much for Canio. Art and reality blur and things quickly spiral out of control, towards Pagliaccis bloody conclusion.

The Main Characters

Canio, (Pagliaccio), Leader of the troupe (Tenor)
Nedda (Colombina) His wife (Soprano)
Tonio (Taddeo) A player (Baritone)
Beppe (Arleccino) A player (Tenor)
Silvio A villager (Baritone)

Plot Synopsis

From behind the curtain, Tonio the clown announces to the audience that the dangers of love will be presented on stage, that actors are human too, and have real feelings.

Act 1.  Entrance to a village, with traveling theatre erected

The people greet the arrival of Canio's troupe. As the players prepare their show, Canio says he expects the audience to laugh at his wife's infidelity in the play. Canio and Beppe are invited to the inn but Tonio says he must look after the donkey. A villager's suggestion that he is waiting behind to court Nedda provokes an outburst from Canio who says that stage and life are quite different, but that if Nedda deceived him in real life, he would avenge such treachery.

When Nedda is left alone, Tonio tries to kiss her. She strikes him with a whip. He is insulted and vows revenge. In reality, Nedda is in love with Silvio, a villager who has urged her to elope with him that very night. She agrees. Tonio, who overhears the plan summons Canio from the inn. Canio rushes at Silvio but Nedda intervenes and he escapes. She refuses to tell Canio who her lover is. Canio realizes he has become the jealous husband and vows to enact in the play accordingly. He also sings his famous self-pitying lament "… laugh Pagliaccio, laugh!" 

Act 2.   Same traveling theatre erected in the village

After the short intermezzo, we see the audience assembling for the play.   

The play begins. Colombina (Nedda) awaits her lover. Pagliaccio (Canio) is away and Taddeo (Tonio) has gone to market. Arlecchino (Beppe) serenades her but they are interrupted by Taddeo's (Tonio) return. Arlecchino jumps in through the window and kicks him out. The lovers prepare to elope. Canio, now appearing as Pagliaccio, breaks out and demands to know her lover's name. He declares that he seeks vengeance. He hears Colombina telling her lover to flee in the same words she used earlier by Nedda. The crowd (other than Silvio) applaud the acting. But Canio still fiercely demands her lover's name. She tries to escape but he stabs her to death. Silvio rushes to rescue her but Canio stabs him too. Amid the crowd's confusion Canio says to the audience: "La commedia è finita!" (The comedy is finished.) The "laugh Pagliaccio" phrase is heard fortissimo in the orchestra.  

Here's tenor Pavarotti performing the famous aria,  "Vesti La Giubba"  

Other Operas by Ruggero Leoncavallo:

I Medici (The Medici) 1893
La Bohème 1897
Zazà 1900
Zingari (Gypsies) 1912
Edipo Re (King Oedipus), produced posthumously  1913  

Video Credit:

Leoncavallo - Pagliacci - Herbert von Karajan. YouTube, uploaded by classicmusic541. Accessed May 20, 2017. 

Vesti La Giubba - I Pagliacci. YouTube, uploaded by congodfather. Accessed May 21, 2017. 


The Harrap Opera Guide by Alexander Morley (1979)
Opera, Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Companions (2006) 

(c) 2007-2017.  Tel Asiado.  Inspired Pen Web.  All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment