Summary Ruggero Leoncavallo. Pagliacci


Drama in two acts with a prologue

Libretto by R. Leoncavallo


Canio, host of the company of wanderers

Comedians (in the comedy – Pagliacci)

Nedda, his wife (Colombina)

Tonio, actor (Taddeo)

Beppo, actor (Harlequin)

Silvio, young peasant






Venue: the village of Montalto in Calabria (Italy).

Time: August 15, 1865.


The text of the libretto belongs to the composer; he took advantage of a real event, the place and time of action of which are indicated in the opera. Leoncavallo participated in the contest announced by the Milan publisher of Sonzoni for the best one-act opera (in 1890, the Maskaña opera Rural Honor was awarded

at this competition). But Leoncavallo wrote the opera in two acts and therefore was not allowed to the competition. Nevertheless, the premiere of “Pagliacci” at the Milan Opera House, held on May 21, 1892, was marked by well-deserved great success. Soon the opera went around all the world scenes and is still preserved in the repertoire.


“Pagliacci” is the best and most popular opera by Leoncavallo. Her music attains great power in depicting human passions.

In the orchestral introduction to the prologue to a joyful animation, whimsical colors contrast melodies filled with a hot, passionate feeling, deep sorrow and suffering. This contrast is preserved in Tonio’s monologue “Forgive me for courage”; lyrically sincere in the beginning, he gradually becomes saturated with pathetic and dramatic.

The first act is opened with a bright festive choir of peasants. Arising at the beginning of Karios arioso “Oh, with me, believe me,” the mockingly ironic tinge soon gives way to a sincere, excited lyric. The ballad of Nedda “In the azure height”

is transparent and airy. In the arioso of Tonio “Oh yeah, I know” expressed his irresistible attraction to Nedda. In the next following duet, Tonio’s ardent confessions are met by Nedda’s contemptuous mocking remarks. With a feeling of love and happiness, the duet of Silvio and Nedda “Silvio, at this hour” is imbued. Finishing the first act of arioso Kanio “You dress up” is full of mournful pathetic; like a cry of a tortured, mortally wounded soul, a melody sounds in the words “Laugh, clown”.

In the orchestral intermezzo, before the second act, the mood of the prologue returns. Again there are pictures of a noisy and motley celebratory crowd. The presentation of the comedians begins with a graceful minuet, which characterizes the wayward and coquettish Colombina. In a gallant spirit, the serenade of Harlequin is sustained. Comic pomposity and effect distinguish the replica of the clown Taddeo. Exquisitely elegant duettino Harlequin and Columbine “Look, my dear” is sustained in the movement of the gavot. With the advent of Canio, music is imbued with a touch of secret grief; the bitterness of deceived hopes, the pain of a broken heart are heard in two arioso Kanio: “No, I’m not a clown” and “I Hope Nadezhda.” The melody “Laugh, clown”, sounding in the orchestra, completes the opera.

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Summary Ruggero Leoncavallo. Pagliacci