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Ruggero Leoncavallo

I Pagliacci

Music and the Libretto by the composer.

Cast of Characters

  • Canio [ Pagliaccio in the play ], (tenor) head of a troupe of strolling players
  • Nedda [ Colombina ], (soprano) wife of Canio
  • Beppe [ Arlechino ], (tenor) a clown
  • Tonio [ Taddeo ], (baritone) a clown
  • Silvio, (baritone) a villager
  • Villagers.


Some place just outside Montalto, in southern Italy, around 1865-70.


21st May 1892; Teatro dal Verme, Milan.


A troupe of traveling actors is being welcomed by villagers and after the welcome, Canio thanks them and invites them to the show that evening. A villager jokes about Tonio's interest in Nedda and Canio's mood turns extremely dark as he tells them it would not be tolerated. The locals leave for church to celebrate the Assumption. Alone, Nedda reflects on the fierceness of Canio's jealousy. Tonio enters and tries to declare his love for her. She insults him repeatedly and beats him with a whip. No sooner has he left than Silvio, her lover, enters and they talk lovingly with each other. Tonio comes in unnoticed and observes them. He rushes from the scene and brings back Canio. Silvio slips away and Canio demands his name from Nedda. She refuses and Canio becomes violent. Beppe intervenes reminding Canio of their upcoming performance. The air remains charged with rage as Canio slowly puts on his make-up. After a brief Intermezzo, the crowd is seated and waiting for the show to begin. Colombina [ Nedda ] brings another man home to eat with her since her husband Pagliaccio [ Canio ] is away for the evening. He returns home early and interrupts the two. Reality and stage become intertwined for Canio and Nedda as Canio's rage drives the opera to it's tragic close.

Memorable sections of music

the Prologue
Stridono lassù
Tutto scordiam
Vesti la giubba
No, Pagliaccio non son

Copyright © 1996, Stephen L. Parker