Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

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When Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919) heard of the Mascagni opera's success, he contemplated writing a piece on a similar emotion-laden subject. Mascagni had two of his friends, Guido Menasci and Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, write his libretto, but Leoncavallo had the ability to write both the words and the music.

Elizabeth Futral as Nedda and Scott Henricks as Sylvio, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
Elizabeth Futral as Nedda and Scott Henricks as Sylvio, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

He said that the story of Pagliacci had come from an incident that he witnessed as a child, but most likely he borrowed aspects of the story from other sources as well. He may well have used material from Catulle Mendès' one act tragedy, La Femme de Tabarin, which was playing when Leoncavallo was in Paris in 1887.

José Cura as Canio and Elizabeth Futral as Nedda, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
José Cura as Canio and Elizabeth Futral as Nedda, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

The première of Pagliacci, held in Milan on 21 May 1892, was as successful as the first performances of Cavalleria had been, and by the next year, the two short works were paired as a double bill at the Metropolitan Opera.

Elizabeth Futral as Nedda and Scott Henricks as Sylvio, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
Elizabeth Futral as Nedda and Scott Henricks as Sylvio, in 'I Pagliacci' at San Diego Opera. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

 

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Copyright © 30 March 2008 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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