Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci

Young People’s Opera House

Lyric Records 501

Total Time: 12:17

Pagliacci; Players, or Clowns), sometimes incorrectly rendered with a definite article as I Pagliacci, is an opera consisting of a prologue and two acts written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It recounts the tragedy of a jealous husband in a commedia dell’arte troupe. It is the only opera of Leoncavallo that is still widely staged.

Pagliacci premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan on May 21, 1892, conducted by Arturo Toscanini with Adelina Stehle as Nedda, Fiorello Giraud as Canio, Victor Maurel as Tonio, and Mario Ancona as Silvio. Nellie Melba played Nedda in London in 1892, soon after its Italian premiere, and in New York in 1893.

In 1907, Pagliacci became the first entire opera to be recorded, with the Puerto Rican tenor Antonio Paoli as Canio and under Leoncavallo’s personal supervision. In 1931, it became the first complete opera to be filmed with sound, in a now obscure version starring the tenor Fernando Bertini, in his only film, as Canio, and the San Carlo Opera Company.

The opera has been recorded many times, especially during and after the 1940s; according to one source, there are 137 recordings in existence.

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