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For other uses, see Pagliacci (disambiguation). Pagliacci_sentence_0


LibrettistPagliacci_header_cell_0_1_0 Ruggero LeoncavalloPagliacci_cell_0_1_1
LanguagePagliacci_header_cell_0_2_0 ItalianPagliacci_cell_0_2_1
PremierePagliacci_header_cell_0_3_0 21 May 1892 (1892-05-21)

Teatro Dal Verme, MilanPagliacci_cell_0_3_1

Pagliacci (Italian pronunciation: [paʎˈʎattʃi; literal translation, "Clowns") is an Italian opera in a prologue and two acts, with music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo. Pagliacci_sentence_1

It is the composer's only opera that is still widely performed. Pagliacci_sentence_2

Opera companies have frequently staged Pagliacci with Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, a double bill known colloquially as "Cav and Pag". Pagliacci_sentence_3

Pagliacci premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan on 21 May 1892, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, with Adelina Stehle as Nedda, Fiorello Giraud as Canio, Victor Maurel as Tonio, and Mario Ancona as Silvio. Pagliacci_sentence_4

Nellie Melba played Nedda in London in 1893, soon after the Italian premiere, and it was given in New York on 15 June 1893, with Agostino Montegriffo as Canio. Pagliacci_sentence_5

Composition history Pagliacci_section_0

Around 1890, when Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana premiered, Leoncavallo was a little-known composer. Pagliacci_sentence_6

After seeing Mascagni's success, he decided to write an opera in response: one act composed in the verismo style. Pagliacci_sentence_7

Leoncavallo wrote that he based the story of Pagliacci on an incident from his childhood: a murder in 1865, the victim of which was a Leoncavallo family servant, Gaetano Scavello. Pagliacci_sentence_8

The murderer was Gaetano D'Alessandro, whose brother Luigi was his accomplice. Pagliacci_sentence_9

The incident resulted from a series of perceived romantic entanglements involving Scavello, Luigi D'Alessandro, and a village girl with whom both men were infatuated. Pagliacci_sentence_10

Leoncavallo's father, a judge, was the presiding magistrate over the criminal investigation. Pagliacci_sentence_11

Upon learning of the plot of Leoncavallo's libretto in an 1894 French translation, the French author Catulle Mendès thought it resembled his 1887 play La Femme de Tabarin, with its play-within-the-play and the clown murdering his wife. Pagliacci_sentence_12

Mendès sued Leoncavallo for plagiarism. Pagliacci_sentence_13

The composer pleaded ignorance of Mendès's play. Pagliacci_sentence_14

Later there were counter-accusations that Mendès's play resembled Don Manuel Tamayo y Baus's Un Drama Nuevo (1867). Pagliacci_sentence_15

Mendès dropped his lawsuit. Pagliacci_sentence_16

However, the scholar Matteo Sansone has suggested that, as Leoncavallo was a notable student of French culture, and lived in Paris from 1882 to 1888, he had ample opportunity to be exposed to new French art and musical works. Pagliacci_sentence_17

These would potentially have included Mendès's play, another version of La femme de Tabarin by Paul Ferrier, and Tabarin, an opera composed by Émile Pessard that was based on Ferrier's play. Pagliacci_sentence_18

Sansone has elaborated on the many parallels among the Mendès, Ferrier, and Pessard versions of the Tabarin story and Pagliacci, noting that Leoncavallo deliberately minimised any sort of connection between his opera and these earlier French works. Pagliacci_sentence_19

Leoncavallo originally titled his story Il pagliaccio (The Clown). Pagliacci_sentence_20

The baritone Victor Maurel, who was cast as the first Tonio, requested that Leoncavallo change the title from the singular Il pagliaccio to the plural Pagliacci, to broaden dramatic interest from Canio alone to include Tonio (his own role). Pagliacci_sentence_21

Performance history Pagliacci_section_1

Pagliacci received mixed critical reviews upon its world premiere, but was instantly successful with the public and has remained so ever since. Pagliacci_sentence_22

The UK premiere of Pagliacci took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London on 19 May 1893. Pagliacci_sentence_23

The US premiere followed a month later at the Grand Opera House in New York on 15 June, with American tenor Agostino Montegriffo as Canio. Pagliacci_sentence_24

The Metropolitan Opera first staged the work on 11 December as a double-bill with Orfeo ed Euridice, with Nellie Melba in the role of Nedda. Pagliacci_sentence_25

The Met again staged Pagliacci as a double-bill, this time followed by Cavalleria rusticana on 22 December 1893. Pagliacci_sentence_26

The two operas have since been frequently performed as a double-bill, a pairing referred to in the operatic world colloquially as "Cav and Pag". Pagliacci_sentence_27

Pagliacci was produced alone in Washington National Opera's November 1997 production by Franco Zeffirelli. Pagliacci_sentence_28

The re-organised New York City Opera presented Pagliacci in 2016 on a double bill with Rachmaninoff's Aleko. Pagliacci_sentence_29

Roles Pagliacci_section_2


Roles in the opera and in the commedia dell'arte, voice types, premiere castPagliacci_table_caption_1
RolePagliacci_header_cell_1_0_0 Role in Commedia dell'artePagliacci_header_cell_1_0_1 Voice typePagliacci_header_cell_1_0_2 Premiere cast, 21 May 1892

Conductor: Arturo ToscaniniPagliacci_header_cell_1_0_3

Canio, head of the troupePagliacci_cell_1_1_0 Pagliaccio (Pierrot), Colombina's husbandPagliacci_cell_1_1_1 tenorPagliacci_cell_1_1_2 Fiorello GiraudPagliacci_cell_1_1_3
Nedda, Canio's wife,

in love with SilvioPagliacci_cell_1_2_0

Colombina, Pagliaccio's wife, in love with ArlecchinoPagliacci_cell_1_2_1 sopranoPagliacci_cell_1_2_2 Adelina StehlePagliacci_cell_1_2_3
Tonio, the foolPagliacci_cell_1_3_0 Taddeo, Colombina's servantPagliacci_cell_1_3_1 baritonePagliacci_cell_1_3_2 Victor MaurelPagliacci_cell_1_3_3
Beppe (Peppe), actorPagliacci_cell_1_4_0 Arlecchino, Colombina's loverPagliacci_cell_1_4_1 tenorPagliacci_cell_1_4_2 Francesco Daddi []Pagliacci_cell_1_4_3
Silvio, Nedda's loverPagliacci_cell_1_5_0 Pagliacci_cell_1_5_1 baritonePagliacci_cell_1_5_2 Mario AnconaPagliacci_cell_1_5_3
Chorus of villagersPagliacci_cell_1_6_0

Synopsis Pagliacci_section_3


Prologue Pagliacci_section_4

During the overture, the curtain rises. Pagliacci_sentence_30

From behind a second curtain, Tonio, dressed as his commedia character Taddeo, addresses the audience ("Si può?... Pagliacci_sentence_31

Si può?... Pagliacci_sentence_32

Signore! Pagliacci_sentence_33

Signori! Pagliacci_sentence_34

... Un nido di memorie"). Pagliacci_sentence_35

He reminds the audience that actors have feelings too, and that the show is about real people. Pagliacci_sentence_36

Act 1 Pagliacci_section_5

At three o'clock in the afternoon, the commedia troupe enters the village to the cheering of the villagers. Pagliacci_sentence_37

Canio describes the night's performance: the troubles of Pagliaccio. Pagliacci_sentence_38

He says the play will begin at ventitré ore, an agricultural method of time-keeping that means the play will begin an hour before sunset. Pagliacci_sentence_39

As Nedda steps down from the cart, Tonio offers his hand, but Canio pushes him aside and helps her down himself. Pagliacci_sentence_40

The villagers suggest drinking at the tavern. Pagliacci_sentence_41

Canio and Beppe accept, but Tonio stays behind. Pagliacci_sentence_42

The villagers tease Canio that Tonio is planning an affair with Nedda. Pagliacci_sentence_43

Canio warns everyone that while he may act the foolish husband in the play, in real life he will not tolerate other men making advances to Nedda. Pagliacci_sentence_44

Shocked, a villager asks if Canio really suspects her. Pagliacci_sentence_45

He says no, and sweetly kisses her on the forehead. Pagliacci_sentence_46

As the church bells ring vespers, he and Beppe leave for the tavern, leaving Nedda alone. Pagliacci_sentence_47

Nedda is frightened by Canio's vehemence ("Qual fiamma avea nel guardo"), but the birdsong comforts her ("Stridono lassù"). Pagliacci_sentence_48

Tonio returns and confesses his love for her, but she laughs. Pagliacci_sentence_49

Enraged, Tonio grabs Nedda, but she takes a whip, strikes him and drives him off. Pagliacci_sentence_50

Silvio, who is Nedda's lover, comes from the tavern, where he has left Canio and Beppe drinking. Pagliacci_sentence_51

He asks Nedda to elope with him after the performance and, though she is afraid, she agrees. Pagliacci_sentence_52

Tonio, who has been eavesdropping, leaves to inform Canio so that he might catch Silvio and Nedda together. Pagliacci_sentence_53

Canio and Tonio return and, as Silvio escapes, Nedda calls after him, "I will always be yours!" Pagliacci_sentence_54

Canio chases Silvio, but does not catch him and does not see his face. Pagliacci_sentence_55

He demands that Nedda tell him the name of her lover, but she refuses. Pagliacci_sentence_56

He threatens her with a knife, but Beppe disarms him. Pagliacci_sentence_57

Beppe insists that they prepare for the performance. Pagliacci_sentence_58

Tonio tells Canio that her lover will give himself away at the play. Pagliacci_sentence_59

A heartbroken Canio is left alone to put on his costume and prepare to laugh ("Vesti la giubba" – "Put on the costume"). Pagliacci_sentence_60

Act 2 Pagliacci_section_6

As the crowd arrives, Nedda, costumed as Colombina, collects their money. Pagliacci_sentence_61

She whispers a warning to Silvio, and the crowd cheers as the play begins. Pagliacci_sentence_62

Colombina's husband Pagliaccio has gone away until morning, and Taddeo is at the market. Pagliacci_sentence_63

She anxiously awaits her lover Arlecchino, who comes to serenade her ("O Colombina") from beneath her window. Pagliacci_sentence_64

Taddeo returns and confesses his love, but she mocks him. Pagliacci_sentence_65

She lets Arlecchino in through the window. Pagliacci_sentence_66

He boxes Taddeo's ears and kicks him out of the room, and the audience laughs. Pagliacci_sentence_67

Arlecchino and Colombina dine, and he gives her a sleeping potion to use later. Pagliacci_sentence_68

When Pagliaccio returns, Colombina will drug him and elope with Arlecchino. Pagliacci_sentence_69

Taddeo bursts in, warning that Pagliaccio is suspicious of his wife and is about to return. Pagliacci_sentence_70

As Arlecchino escapes through the window, Colombina tells him, "I will always be yours!" Pagliacci_sentence_71

As Canio (as Pagliaccio) enters, he hears Nedda (as Colombina) and exclaims "Name of God! Pagliacci_sentence_72

Those same words!" Pagliacci_sentence_73

He tries to continue the play, but loses control and demands to know her lover's name. Pagliacci_sentence_74

Nedda, hoping to keep to the performance, calls Canio by his stage name "Pagliaccio," to remind him of the audience's presence. Pagliacci_sentence_75

He answers with his arietta: "No! Pagliacci_sentence_76

Pagliaccio non son!" Pagliacci_sentence_77

He sings that if his face is pale, it is not from the stage makeup but from the shame she has brought him. Pagliacci_sentence_78

The crowd is impressed by his emotional performance and cheers him, without realizing that it is real. Pagliacci_sentence_79

Nedda, trying to continue the play, admits that she has been visited by the innocent Arlecchino. Pagliacci_sentence_80

Canio, furious and forgetting the play, demands the name of her lover. Pagliacci_sentence_81

Nedda swears she will never tell him, and it becomes apparent that they are not acting. Pagliacci_sentence_82

Beppe asks Tonio to intervene, but Tonio refrains and prevents Beppe from halting the action. Pagliacci_sentence_83

Silvio begins to fight his way toward the stage. Pagliacci_sentence_84

Canio, grabbing a knife from the table, stabs Nedda. Pagliacci_sentence_85

As she dies, she calls: "Help! Pagliacci_sentence_86

Silvio!" Pagliacci_sentence_87

Silvio attacks Canio, but Canio kills him as well. Pagliacci_sentence_88

The horrified audience then hears the celebrated final line: Pagliacci_sentence_89


  • "La commedia è finita!!" – "The comedy is finished!"Pagliacci_item_1_2

Assignment of the final line Pagliacci_section_7

In the original manuscript, Tonio sang the opera's final line, "La Commedia è finita! Pagliacci_sentence_90

", paralleling the prologue, also sung by Tonio. Pagliacci_sentence_91

The appropriation of this final line by Canio dates back to 1895. Pagliacci_sentence_92

John Wright has analysed the dramaturgy of the opera in the context of assignment of the final line, and concluded that the original assignment of the final line to Tonio is the most consistent and appropriate assignment. Pagliacci_sentence_93

Wright says that Tonio shows more deliberate control in his manipulation of the other characters in order to obtain his revenge upon Nedda, after she has rejected him, and is more aware of the demarcation between life and art. Pagliacci_sentence_94

By contrast, Canio is unaware of the behind-the-scenes manipulations and surrenders control of his perception of the difference between life and art as the opera proceeds. Pagliacci_sentence_95

In the present day, the assignment of the final line to Canio has continued to be standard. Pagliacci_sentence_96

Several exceptions, where Tonio delivers the final line, include: Pagliacci_sentence_97


  • The December 1959 production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, directed by Franco ZeffirelliPagliacci_item_2_3
  • A 1968 RAI-TV production directed by Herbert von KarajanPagliacci_item_2_4
  • The HMV recording conducted by Riccardo Muti (EMI CMS7 63650-2)Pagliacci_item_2_5
  • The Philips recording conducted by Muti (Philips 0289 434 1312), in conjunction with live performances in Philadelphia in February 1992Pagliacci_item_2_6
  • The 1998 English-language recording on Chandos (CHAN 3003)Pagliacci_item_2_7
  • The 2007 Teatro Real production directed by Giancarlo del Monaco, in which Tonio's prologue is inserted into the double-bill before the overture to Cavalleria rusticana, the finale of which segues directly into the first act of Pagliacci (Opus Arte OA0983D)Pagliacci_item_2_8
  • The 2008 Seattle Opera productionPagliacci_item_2_9
  • The 2010 Opera Grand Rapids productionPagliacci_item_2_10
  • The 2014 San Diego Opera productionPagliacci_item_2_11

Orchestration Pagliacci_section_8

The orchestra consists of 2 flutes, 1 piccolo, 2 oboes, 1 cor anglais, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, 2 harps, timpani, tubular bells, percussion (triangle, cymbals, bass drum, glockenspiel) and strings. Pagliacci_sentence_98

Additionally, there is an onstage violin, oboe, trumpet, and bass drum. Pagliacci_sentence_99

Also included in the final pages of the score is a part in the percussion section marked "T.T." Pagliacci_sentence_100

(not assigned in the instrumentation page at the beginning.) Pagliacci_sentence_101

Performers have taken this to be a tam-tam (partly because Mascagni used one, although to much greater effect, on the final moments of Cavalleria rusticana). Pagliacci_sentence_102

It is given three strokes right after the announcement that "The comedy is over". Pagliacci_sentence_103

Recordings and other media Pagliacci_section_9

Main article: Pagliacci discography Pagliacci_sentence_104

In 1907, Pagliacci became the first opera to be recorded in its entirety, with the Puerto Rican tenor Antonio Paoli as Canio and under Leoncavallo's personal supervision. Pagliacci_sentence_105

In 1931, it became the first complete opera to be filmed with sound, in a now-obscure version starring the tenor Fernando Bertini as Canio, in his only film, with the San Carlo Opera Company. Pagliacci_sentence_106

Franco Zeffirelli directed his 1981 La Scala production with Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas for a 1982 television airing, which has since been released on DVD. Pagliacci_sentence_107

The movie's soundtrack received a Grammy nomination for Best Opera Recording. Pagliacci_sentence_108

Pagliacci was also recorded in English in 1997, and released commercially in 1998, for the Chandos "Opera in English" label with Dennis O'Neill as Canio, Alan Opie as Tonio, and Rosa Mannion as Nedda. Pagliacci_sentence_109

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