The only one of Leoncavallo's operas which has remained in the standard operatic repertory, Pagliacci is the 14th most performed opera in North America according to Opera America. Its name is sometimes incorrectly rendered as I Pagliacci (The Clowns). Around 1890, when Cavalleria Rusticana premiered, Leoncavallo was a little-known composer. After seeing Cav's success, he decided to write a similar opera. It was to be one act long and composed in the verismo style.
A lawsuit was brought against him for plagiarism of the libretto. Leoncavallo's defense was that the plot of the opera was based on a true story he had witnessed as a child. He claimed that a servant had taken him to a commedia performance in which the events of the opera had actually occurred. He also claimed that his father, who was a judge, had led the criminal investigation, and that he had documents supporting these claims.
None of this evidence has ever appeared. Today most critics agree that the libretto was inspired by an 1887 play of Catulle Mendès entitled La Femme de Tabarin. Leoncavallo was living in Paris at the time of the premiere, and it is likely that he saw the play. Pagliacci was an instant success and it remains popular today. It contains one of opera's most famous and popular arias, Recitar! ...
Vesti la giubba. (To perform! ... Put on the costume) One of Enrico Caruso's recordings of Vesti la giubba was the first record to sell one million copies. In 1907, Pagliacci became the first entire opera to be recorded.
In 1931, it became the first complete opera to be filmed with sound, in a now obscure version starring tenor Fernando Bertini, in his only film, as Canio. As a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, it appears as number fourteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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