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Leoncavallo, R. (1858-1919)


Pagliacci

The Clowns





Composed 1891-1892.
First performed May 21, 1892.
Libretto by the composer (in Itarian).




A Summary of gPagliaccih



Prologue
Before the opera begins, a member of the small theatrical road company, Tonio, who looks like a clown, steps before the curtain. He tells the audience that a clown is also a man, so a clown feels sorrow and pity just like a man.

Act 1
In the latter half of the 19th century, in Calabria in the south of Italy, the small theatrical road company whose manager is Canio, arrived in the village. Caniofs wife is the main actress of the company, Nedda. She gets sick of her husband, because he is deeply jealous. Nedda has another man, Silvio. Nedda and Silvio promise to elope together. A member of the company, Tonio, overhears this promise, and he informs Canio of it. Canio appears, but Silvio has already run away. Canio is infuriated, he asks his wife, gWho was that?h But, Nedda refuses to answer.
In the meantime, it was time to perform. In the dressing room, Canio wears his stage costume to play the clown. When he puts powder on his face, he cries alone.

Act 2
Many villagers gathers, and the performance by the company starts. The story is similar to Caniofs reality. The woman, who is played by Nedda, meets her lover while her husband, who is played by Canio, is absent, and her husband comes home soon.
Canio was out of his senses. In the middle of his play, he strongly asks, gTell me his name!h but his wife refuses to answer. The audience is excited by thier realistic acting. Finally, Canio stabs Nedda to death with a knife. The audience screams in horror.
Before her death, Nedda cried, gHelp me, Silvio!h Silvio appears in the audience, but he attempts to run away. Canio runs after him, and stabs him too. Canio tells the audience, gThe comedy has ended.h




A Comment on gPagliaccih



This opera was composed by an Italian composer, Ruggero Leoncavallo. Be composing it, he saw the success of another Italian composer, Pietro Mascagni who is the same generation. Mascagni composed an opera, gCavalleria Rusticana.h This opera won the opera composition contest for the publishing company in Italy. gCavalleria Rusticanah gains popularity among Italian people. So, Leoncavallo also completed compassion of the opera, gPagliaccih in five months, and participated in the next opera contest.

The application condition for this contest is a one-act opera. Leoncavallofs opera is a two-act opera. So, gPagliaccih was disqualified for not meeting the stated condition. But, the president of the publishing company appreciated Leoncavallofs talent as an opera composer. gPagliaccih was performed in Milan by a great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, when he was 25 years old.

The most important and popular scene in this opera is Caniofs aria, gVesti la giubba (Put on the costume).h Canio must play a clown in spite of his painful condition, and must make the audience laugh. He must try to convince himself of his role. He told himself to put on his clown costume. This tenor aria expresses pain.

I heard that the story of this opera was based on an actual murder case. Leoncavallofs father was a judge, he taught his son about the case. One of the most interesting points of the story is itfs a gStory within a story.h Canio confuses the reality and the story within a story. Be careful not to confuse your reality and the stories which you watch on TV.





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