Ruggero Leoncavallo (March 8, 1857 - August 8, 1919) was an Italian composer and exponent of the verismo, or realistic, style in opera, a reaction against the romantic operas of the day. He was born in Naples and educated at the Conservatory there.
Particularly influenced by the opera Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, 1890) by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni, Leoncavallo wrote the widely acclaimed Pagliacci (Clowns). The opera had its premiere in Milan, Italy, in 1892 and has retained its popularity since that time. Leoncavallo's La Bohème (The Bohemian, 1897) is considered one of his finest works, but its popularity has always been overshadowed by the renown of the opera La Bohème (1896) written by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Both composers, working on their versions concurrently, based their operas on a novel entitled Scènes de la vie de bohème (Scenes from Bohemian Life, 1847-1849) by French writer Henri Murger. Although Leoncavallo wrote a number of other operas, only La Bohème and Zaza (1900) achieved even modest success.