Music composed by Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858-1919). Libretto by the composer based on a
crime report.

First Performance: 21 May 1892, Teatro Dal Verme, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Canio, leader of the players Tenor
Nedda, Canio’s wife Soprano
Tonio, a clown Baritone
Beppe Tenor
Silvio, a villager Baritone
Two Villagers Tenor, Baritone

Setting: In Calabria near Montalto during the Feast of the Assumption between 1865-1870.



During the overture, the curtain rises. From behind a second curtain, Tonio, dressed as his
commedia character Taddeo, addresses the audience. (Si può?… Si può?… Signore! Signori!) He
reminds the audience that actors have feelings too, and that the show is about real humans.

Act I

At three o’clock in the afternoon, the commedia troupe enters the village, and the villagers cheer.
Canio describes the night’s performance: The troubles of Pagliaccio. As Nedda steps down from
the cart, Tonio offers his hand, but Canio pushes him aside and helps her down himself. The
villagers suggest drinking at the tavern. Canio and Beppe accept, but Tonio stays behind. The
villagers tease Canio that Tonio is planning an affair with Nedda. Canio warns everyone that
while he may act the foolish husband in the play, in real life he will not tolerate other men
making advances to Nedda. Shocked, a villager asks if Canio really suspects her. He says no, and
sweetly kisses her on the forehead. As the church bells ring vespers, he and Beppe leave for the
tavern, and Nedda is left alone.

Nedda, who is cheating on Canio, is frightened by Canio’s vehemence, but the birdsong comforts
her. Tonio returns and confesses his love for her, but she laughs. Enraged, Tonio begins to grab
her, but she takes a whip, strikes him, and drives him off. Silvio, who is Nedda’s lover, comes
from the tavern, where he has left Canio and Beppe drinking. He asks Nedda to elope with him
after the performance, and though she is afraid, she agrees. Tonio, who has been eavesdropping,
leaves to get Canio. They return, and as Silvio escapes, Nedda calls after him, “I will always be

Canio chases Silvio but does not catch him and does not see his face. He demands that Nedda tell
him the name of her lover, but she refuses. He threatens her with a knife, but Beppe disarms him.
Beppe insists that they prepare for the performance. Tonio tells Canio that her lover will surely
give himself away at the play. Canio is left alone to put on his costume and prepare to laugh.
(Vesti la giubba)

Act II

As the crowd arrives, Nedda, costumed as Colombina, collects their money. She whispers a
warning to Silvio, and the crowd cheers as the play begins.

Colombina’s husband Pagliaccio has gone away until morning, and Taddeo is at the market. She
anxiously awaits her lover Arlecchino, who soon serenades her from beneath her window.
Taddeo returns and confesses his love, but she mocks him and lets in Arlecchino through the
window. He boxes Taddeo’s ears and kicks him out of the room, and the audience laughs.

Arlecchino and Colombina dine, and he delivers a sleeping potion. When Pagliaccio returns, she
plans to drug him and elope with Arlecchino. Taddeo bursts in, warning that Pagliaccio is
suspicious of his wife and is about to return. As Arlecchino escapes through the window,
Colombina tells him, “I will always be yours!”

As Canio enters, he hears Nedda and exclaims, “Name of God! Those same words!” He tries to
continue the play but loses control and demands to know her lover’s name. Nedda, hoping to
continue the play, tells him it is Pagliaccio, but he proclaims that he is no clown and he loves her
dearly. (No! Pagliaccio non son!) The crowd, impressed by his emotional performance, cheers

Nedda, trying again to continue the play, admits that her lover is Arlecchino. Canio, furious,
demands the name or her life, but she swears she will never tell him, and the crowd realizes they
are not acting. Silvio begins to fight his way toward the stage. Canio, grabbing a knife from the
table, stabs Nedda. As she dies she calls, “Help! Silvio!” Canio stabs Silvio and declares, “The
commedia is over!”

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description=Pagliacci (Larry Moore, elmodraws@cfl.rr.com)
first_audio_name=Ruggiero Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
Windows Media Player
second_audio_name=Ruggiero Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
WinAMP, VLC or iTunes
product_title=Ruggiero Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
product_by=Alessandro Valente (Canio), Adelaide Saraceni (Nedda), Apollo Granforte (Tonio), Leonildo Basi (Silvio), Nello Palai (Beppe), Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan, Carlo Sagajno (cond.)
Recorded 1929-1930