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Ruggero Leoncavallo

Ruggero Leoncavallo

Pagliacci  Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova  05-04-2011
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova

Ruggero Leoncavallo's life

Ruggero Leoncavallo was born in Naples in 1857. The father is a magistrate and the family often moves because of his job, including Calabria, where Ruggero, as a child, learns to play the piano. Back in Naples, he enrols at Conservatorio and starts going to the theatre, where he discovers opera.
In 1876 Leoncavallo participates to the premiere of Wagner's complete works and starts thinking about composing an opera himself. He manages to avoid military service moving to Egypt, where his father's younger brother lives, working as pianist and music teacher for the Italian Community. He remains in Egypt for 4 years and leaves due to the incoming difficult relationship between local people and western immigrants. Leoncavallo moves to Paris where he meets important composers such as Charles Gonoud and Jules Massenet. Six years after he's married his student Bertha Rambaud, he moves back to Italy.
After the incredible success of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, he decides to compose an opera, inspired by a violent event he had witnessed in Calabria during his childhood. That's how Pagliacci was born. The opera is shown at Teatro del Verme of Milan in 1892, conduced by Arturo Toscanini, and then is represented infinite times around the world. His following operas don't receive the same appreciation, causing him financial difficulty: Leoncavallo can't afford to maintain the high class lifestyle he has had since his sudden international success and he's forced to sell villa Myriam in Switzerland, where he's been living until then. He then starts writing operettas, receiving quite a good success.
His last years are clouded by health problems. Leoncavallo dies in 1919 at the age of 62.

Leoncavallo's Operas

Pagliacci (1892), I Medici (1893), Chatterton (1896), La Bohème (1897), Zazà (1900), Der Roland von Berlin (1904), Maià (1910), Zingari (1912), Mameli (1916), Edipo re (1920). Operette: Malbruk, La reginetta delle rose, Are you there?, La candidata, Prestami tua moglie, A chi la giarrettiera?, Il primo bacio, La maschera nuda.


Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

Pagliacci (Milan, Teatro dal Verme, 21 May 1892) is considered the musical manifesto of Verism and Leoncavallo's masterpiece (even though the musician has written many other operas, some of real value which would deserve to be re-discovered). The reason is also due to the famous “Prologue” which is in fact a prequel, sung by Tonio, where the real theme of the opera is explained. No more fake feelings but the actual reality. Over this concept, Leoncavallo has created a sheet music of marvellous musical dexterity, totally thrilling, impassioned and dramatic with unforgettable lyrical passages. Very soon Pagliacci has found in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana its “ideal soulmate” and the two cornerstones of Verism are often shown together. Actually they appear to be written to be shown together. Cav &Pag, an indissoluble couple...even though it's easy to surrender to each of them. You could find more of yourself and human nature in it than you imagine...
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