- Michele Girardi
Dramma in a prologue and two acts by Ruggero Leoncavallo to his own libretto, based on a newspaper crime report; Milan, Teatro Dal Verme, 21 May 1892.
The success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana encouraged the music publisher Sonzogno to look for other subjects with strong emotional appeal, and when Leoncavallo offered him the libretto of a story of love and jealousy in a company of wandering players he was sure that it would be successful. Leoncavallo tried first to follow Mascagni’s example faithfully by making it a one-act opera, but apart from the larger dimensions of the work he found it dramatically necessary to use the curtain to make clear the distinction between the ‘real life’ first part of the opera, and the second part in which the play is performed. The triumph of Pagliacci was helped by the excellent cast: Victor Maurel (Verdi’s Iago and future Falstaff) created Tonio and recited the Prologue, which the composer added to the original plan specially for him. Nedda was Adelina Stehle, Canio Fiorello Giraud, and the Dal Verme orchestra was conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. The opera was soon widely performed, and in the first two years alone it was translated into all the European languages, including Swedish and Serbo-Croat (also into Hebrew for the Tel-Aviv production in ...