Personalities | Ruggero Leoncavallo | Late Romantic | Classical

(Rood-jâ’-ro La-on-ka-val’-lo) 1858–1919
Italian composer

Leoncavallo’s masterpiece was the one-act opera Pagliacci (‘Clowns’, 1892), for which he wrote the libretto, based on an incident in the Italian town where his father was a judge. In its realistic subject and passionately expressive style, it embodies the verismo movement pioneered by Mascagni, with whose Cavalleria rusticana (‘Rustic Chivalry’, 1890) it is often twinned in performance. Pagliacci was performed with great success across the world months after its premiere in Milan in 1892, and was popularized by the great Italian tenors and divas of the day. Though La bohème (1897), appearing a year after the famous opera by Puccini, is no longer performed, Zazà (1900), the story of love and betrayal of a cabaret singer in fin-de-siècle France, remains a favourite of the verismo repertory.

Recommended Recording:
Pagliacci, soloists, La Scala Chorus & Orchestra (cond) Herbert von Karajan (Deutsche Grammophon)

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