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Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

III (Poltrone di Platea), € 180
V (Palchi Laterali plt 1 Ord avanti), € 156

Pagliacci, Opera by R. Leoncavallo

Pagliacci, Opera by R. Leoncavallo

With Pagliacci, Ruggero Leoncavallo established his name as a master of the short-form verismo. He was allegedly inspired to try his hand in the genre after watching Pietro Mascagni’s celebrated Cavalleria rusticana, also an excellent representative of opera vera. As a result, many modern productions put the two works on the same bill, sometimes affectionately abbreviated as ‘Cav / Pag’. Teatro Costanzi in Rome, however, gives Leoncavallo’s best-known opera all the attention it rightfully deserves. Pagliacci premiered on 21 May 1892 at Teatro Dal Verme in Milan, and it won audiences immediately thanks to its melodramatic plot and unapologetic raw emotions. Be warned: though the main characters are clowns (or ‘pagliacci’ in Italian), the storyline is anything but funny.

As the author of both the music and the libretto, Leoncavallo retained full creative control over Pagliacci. Deeply impressed by the verismo approach that was popular in that period, thanks to the works of Puccini and Mascagni, among others, he chose to let one of the prickliest stories unfold in real time: a wife’s infidelity, right under her husband’s nose. As a commedia dell’arte company arrives in a Calabrian village, we meet their leader Canio and his wife Nedda. Rumours are going around that she is having an affair with someone in the troupe. Because Tonio is in love with Nedda, suspicions naturally gravitate towards him, but the real culprit is Silvio. Canio is oblivious and trusting – until he sees a male silhouette running away from his wife’s quarters. At her refusal to identify her lover, the wronged husband sinks into a sea of anger that washes over everything he touches. As the night’s performance commences, the once-humorous play descends into a series of tense confrontations that find a bombastic, bloody resolution.

Leoncavallo carved his name in opera history with Pagliacci, and for good reason. In a prologue and two short acts, the Italian composer managed to achieve a seamless creative flow that has been mesmerising audiences around the world for over one century. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma delivers a faithful, stunning interpretation of the classic opera.

image Rome Opera House / Silvia Lelli / Teatro dell'Opera di Roma