Ruggero Leoncavallo

Composer. Born 23 April 1857. Died 9 August 1919
Ruggero Leoncavallo
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1857-04-23
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Ruggero Leoncavallo

Ruggero Leoncavallo Biography (BBC)

It was Leoncavallo’s luck to have a magistrate father whose tale of a real-life crime passionel gave him the plot for Pagliacci, the only one of his 12 operas and 10 operettas to survive in the repertoire. But it sometimes seems like the only bit of luck he ever had. Certainly the fact of being born a year after Puccini didn’t help.

Having entered the Naples Conservatory in 1866, at the age of 9, Leoncavallo graduated 10 years later to Bologna University, where he fell under the influence of the poet, and passionate Wagnerian, Giosuè Carducci. He soon wrote both the text and the music for his first opera, Chatterton (on the life of the Bristolian forger, Wordsworth’s ‘marvellous boy’) and went on to write the texts for several more of his own operas, as well as for some by other composers.

Discouraged by his inability to get Chatterton staged (it was not finally premiered until 1896), he lived abroad for many years, mostly in Egypt and Paris. It was while earning his living as a pianist at café-concerts in the French capital that, in 1888, he met the great baritone Victor Maurel, Verdi’s first Iago, who arranged for him to be taken on by Verdi’s publisher, Ricordi. The latter, however, seemed more interested in Leoncavallo’s literary talents than his musical ones and persuaded him to write the text for Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. The two composers soon fell out, a scenario that was to be repeated even more spectacularly a few years later with La bohème, when Leoncavallo reacted to Puccini’s rejection of his draft libretto by deciding to compose his own Bohème in direct competition. Puccini, of course, finished his version first, leaving Leoncavallo’s to limp onto the stage, and into near-total obscurity, some 15 months later.

By then Leoncavallo had already scored his one and only enduring success, with Pagliacci, which Toscanini had premiered in Milan, in May 1892, with Maurel as Tonio. Ironically, given that he had dashed it off in a quick attempt to cash in on the fashion for verismo set by Mascagni’s prize-winning Cavalleria rusticana of 1890, even Pagliacci is still best remembered only as the back end of the double-bill popularly nicknamed Cav & Pag.

Of Leoncavallo’s later operas, none took a hold in the repertoire. They include Zazà (1900), a back-stage tale of French music-hall life; Der Roland von Berlin (1904), commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II to glorify the Hohenzollern dynasty; Zingari (1912), a setting of Pushkin’s Gypsies written for the London Hippodrome; and Edipo re, a posthumously completed grand opera on Sophocles’ Oedipus rex, premiered in Chicago the year after the composer’s death, with Titta Ruffo in the title-role.

Of Crepusculum, the would-be Wagnerian ‘epic poem in the form of a historical trilogy’ set in the Italian Renaissance, that Leoncavallo had first planned as a student in Bolgna, he only ever completed the first part, I Medici (premiered in Milan in 1893).

Besides Pagliacci, his most enduring legacy is the delightful song ‘Mattinata’, one of the earliest works specifically commissioned for the gramophone and a popular recital number with Italian tenors ever since Caruso recorded it, with Leoncavallo at the piano, in 1904.

Profile © Aida Downes, 2003

Ruggero Leoncavallo Biography (Wikipedia)

Ruggero (or Ruggiero) Leoncavallo (23 April 1857 – 9 August 1919) was an Italian opera composer and librettist. Although he produced numerous operas and other songs throughout his career it is his opera Pagliacci (1892) that remained his lasting contribution, despite attempts to escape the shadow of his greatest success.

Today he remains largely known for Pagliacci, one of the most popular works in the repertory, appearing as number 20 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide in the 2013/14 season. His other well-known works include the song "Mattinata", popularized by Enrico Caruso, as well as the symphonic poem La nuit de mai.

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Featured Works


Ruggero Leoncavallo Tracks

Ruggero Leoncavallo
Si puo? (Prologue - I Pagliacci)
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Si puo? (Prologue - I Pagliacci)

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Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci – Vesti la Giubba
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Pagliacci – Vesti la Giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Vesti La Giubba
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Vesti La Giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Prologue
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Prologue
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Qual fiamma avea nel guardo, Nedda's aria from 'I Pagliacci'
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Qual fiamma avea nel guardo, Nedda's aria from 'I Pagliacci'
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Zazà piccola zingara (Zazà)
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Zazà piccola zingara (Zazà)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Vesti la Giubba
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Vesti la Giubba

Vesti la Giubba

Orchestra
Vienna Volksoper Orchestra
Conductor
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Mattinata
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Mattinata
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci: Coro 'Don din don' (Act 1 Scene 1)
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I Pagliacci: Coro 'Don din don' (Act 1 Scene 1)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci: 'Recitar!... Vesti la giubba'
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Pagliacci: 'Recitar!... Vesti la giubba'
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci - Vesti la giubba
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Pagliacci - Vesti la giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Vesti la giubba (I pagliacci)
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Vesti la giubba (I pagliacci)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Intermezzo (I Paglicacci)
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Intermezzo (I Paglicacci)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Si puo? (Prologue - I Pagliacci)
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Si puo? (Prologue - I Pagliacci)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Ed ora conoscetela (La Bohème)
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Ed ora conoscetela (La Bohème)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci)
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Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci - Act 2, final scene
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I Pagliacci - Act 2, final scene

I Pagliacci - Act 2, final scene

Performer
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan
Georges Prêtre
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci - Act 1; Recitar! ... Vesti la giubba
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Pagliacci - Act 1; Recitar! ... Vesti la giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Mattinata
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Mattinata
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci: "Recitar... Vesti la giubba"
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Pagliacci: "Recitar... Vesti la giubba"
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba
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I Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
"Che ho fatto?" (from Act 4 of Zaza)
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"Che ho fatto?" (from Act 4 of Zaza)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
"Buona Zaza" (from Act 2 of Zaza)
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"Buona Zaza" (from Act 2 of Zaza)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Medici (Prelude to Act 1)
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I Medici (Prelude to Act 1)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Mattinata ('Morning Serenade')
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Mattinata ('Morning Serenade')
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Si può? si può? Signore! - Pagliacci
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Si può? si può? Signore! - Pagliacci
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Si può? Si può? Signore! Signori! - Pagliacci
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Si può? Si può? Signore! Signori! - Pagliacci
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci - Si può? si può? Signore! Signori!
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I Pagliacci - Si può? si può? Signore! Signori!

I Pagliacci - Si può? si può? Signore! Signori!

Singer
Anthony Clark Evans
Conductor
Thomas Sondergaard
Last played on
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Gli Zingari: Act 2 - Dammi un amore
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Gli Zingari: Act 2 - Dammi un amore
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci - opera in 2 acts: Act 1 sc. 4; Vesti la giubba
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I Pagliacci - opera in 2 acts: Act 1 sc. 4; Vesti la giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Musette svaria sulla bocca viva (La bohème)
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Musette svaria sulla bocca viva (La bohème)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba (extract)
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Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba (extract)

Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba (extract)

Performer
Jose Carraras (tenor), Philharmonic Orchestra, Riccardo Muti (conductor)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
I Pagliacci: Act 1 sc.4; Recitar! & Vesti la giubba
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I Pagliacci: Act 1 sc.4; Recitar! & Vesti la giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci: Intermezzo
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Pagliacci: Intermezzo
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci: Vesti La Giubba
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Pagliacci: Vesti La Giubba
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Recitar!... Vesti la giubba (I pagliacci)
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Recitar!... Vesti la giubba (I pagliacci)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
La Nuit de mai - symphonic poem; no.2 Largamente - Comme il fait noir dans la vallee!
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La Nuit de mai - symphonic poem; no.2 Largamente - Comme il fait noir dans la vallee!
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Pagliacci; Stridono Lassu
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Pagliacci; Stridono Lassu

Pagliacci; Stridono Lassu

Performer
Daniela Dessi (Nedda), Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti (conductor)
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Zaza - Act 4
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Zaza - Act 4

Zaza - Act 4

Narrator
Julia Ferri
Choir
BBC Singers
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Mama? Io non l'ho avuta mai, from Zaza, Act 3
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Mama? Io non l'ho avuta mai, from Zaza, Act 3
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Valse mignonne
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Valse mignonne

Valse mignonne

Performer
Lang Lang
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