Pagliacci / Noi, due, quattro…
To prove that good operas transcend age, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence is offering a double feature of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s timeless Pagliacci and modern classical composer Riccardo Panfili’s Noi, due, quattro… that form an impressive musical diptych for opera goers’ enjoyment.
After seeing Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, Leoncavallo felt a strong urge to compose an opera in response, a similarly dramatic rustic story that would match or even surpass the first work’s depth and impact. On top of composing the music, Leoncavallo also wrote the libretto. Legend has it that he based the storyline on a childhood memory of a murder case his father, a magistrate, presided over in Naples. Armed with his own experience of the gruesome crime of passion, the Italian composer crafted an impressive work in the verismo style that was so popular at the time.
Pagliacci (or The Clowns) presents the struggles of comedic actors who are always forced to smile and entertain, putting their woes away. Canio, the head of a troupe of actors, finds out his wife, Nedda, is having an affair with one of the other actors. As he tries to get the name out of her, both in real life and during their commedia dell’arte performance, Canio becomes increasingly erratic and eventually turns to murder. As his wife and her lover lie dead before him, he famously proclaims, “La commedia è finita!”
Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci debuted on 21 May 1892 at Teatro Dal Verme in Milan and remains the composer’s most popular work. Due to its relative brevity, it came to be combined into a double bill with its inspiration, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. This season, however, Maggio Musicale has chosen to pair Pagliacci with a modern opera by Riccardo Panfili – a new diptych fit for the 21st century.
Panfili’s Noi, due, quattro… comes on the heels of his highly praised symphonic works Oltre la linea and Abitare la battaglia. Commissioned by the Teatro del Maggio, the libretto for Noi, due, quattro… was written by Elisa Fuksas, who will also be directing. One of the most intriguing contemporary classical composers in Italy, Panfili is definitely in good company next to Leoncavallo, and this Florentine operatic double feature promises to delight music fans with an exciting marriage of classic and new on the stage of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.